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foreign body in the nose

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Anatomy of the nasal structure

Alternative Names 
foreign object in the nose, nasal foreign body, nasal obstruction

The nose can become blocked accidentally by a substance not normally found there. Such an object or material is called a foreign body.

What is going on in the body? 
Occasionally, an object like a bead or other material is put into the nose, where it may become stuck. This occurs most often among children. The object generally needs to be removed to prevent problems, such as irritation and infection.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? 
Symptoms of a foreign body in the nose may include:
  • bleeding
  • a sensation of something in the nose
  • pain
  • irritation
  • sneezing
  • nasal discharge, which may smell foul if an infection has occurred
What are the causes and risks of the condition? 
Children are at a higher risk because they are more likely to put objects into their nose. The risks are primarily due to the trauma to the nose, infection, and bleeding. The foreign body may go down into the lungs or stomach, which could cause further problems.

What can be done to prevent the condition? 
People should not put any objects into the nose. Young children should not be allowed to play with small objects.

Children should be encouraged to let parents know right away if they do get something stuck in the nose or throat. This will allow the object to be removed immediately before swelling or infection occurs.

How is the condition diagnosed? 
The person affected, or a parent of the child affected, often suspects the problem. A nosebleed or foul-smelling nasal discharge may suggest a foreign body in the nose. Often, close examination of the nose reveals this.

What are the long-term effects of the condition? 
Generally, there are no long-term effects. If the nose is severely injured, reconstructive surgery may be required.

What are the risks to others? 
This condition is not contagious.

What are the treatments for the condition? 
Treatment is aimed at removing the foreign body without making the situation worse. If the home treatment described below fails, a doctor should be consulted.

The affected person should breathe through the mouth. Breathing through the nose may draw the object further in.

The nostril without the foreign body should be closed off with a finger. The person should then try to blow out through the obstructed nostril. This can be tried 2 or 3 times to see if the object can be blown out.

Anyone trying to remove a foreign body should avoid:
  • probing for it with a cotton swab or other tool, which may push the object further in. This makes it more difficult to remove.
  • grasping the object with forceps or other tools. This may cause bleeding and harm the nose.
If necessary, a doctor will use special tools to remove the object. Rarely, this may need to be done in the operating room with general anaesthesia.

Any infection may be treated with antibiotics.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
Removal of the object may further harm the nose or cause bleeding. Antibiotics may cause allergic reactions or stomach upset. If surgery is done, there is a risk of bleeding, infection, or reaction to the anaesthesia medications used.

What happens after treatment for the condition? 
Generally, the nose heals quickly and the person can return to normal activities. Antibiotics should be taken as prescribed.

How is the condition monitored? 
Normally, no monitoring is required. If infection or severe injury occurs, a repeat visit to the doctor may be advised.

Author: Adam Brochert, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 21/1/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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