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Foreign Object in the Ear or Nose

Children may put objects into their nose and ears as part of their normal sense of curiosity. Unfortunately, these items can injure fragile tissue and may be hard to remove. A foreign object in the nose can cause infection and affect breathing. An object in the ear may puncture the eardrum or lead to hearing loss.

Woman holding toddler boy on lap. Health care provider is examining boy's ear with otoscope.
The doctor uses a lighted instrument to examine an object stuck in the ear or nose.

When to go to the health care provider's office, emergency Room (ER), or other urgent care center

If you can't see or easily grasp the object, call your pediatrician or seek other emergency care. Do not try to remove the object yourself. This may cause further damage.

What to expect

The doctor will examine your child's nose or ear using a lighted instrument. A speculum may be used to widen the opening to the ear or nose. How the object is removed will depend on the object and its location: 

  • Your child may be asked to expel an object from the nose with hard blowing. Or the doctor may use a tiny clamp or hook to remove the object.

  • A gentle stream of water may dislodge an object in the ear. If the object cannot be removed by these means, the doctor may use suction or a small hook. In that case, general anesthesia may be given to your child to help him or her "sleep" through the procedure.

Follow-up care

If your child complains of pain or is fussy or irritable, call his or her health care provider.

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 9/5/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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