Foreign Bodies in the Nose

What is a foreign body in the nose?

Children younger than 5 often experiment with their bodies by putting foreign objects — or objects that don’t belong — into their noses. Sometimes they do it out of curiosity. Other times, they are copying other children. And occasionally, they accidentally inhale the foreign body while trying to smell it.

In most cases, the objects are soft and small such as tissues, clay, pieces of toys, beads, foam, erasers and food.

Signs and symptoms 

Your child may tell you he put something into his nose, or you may discover it on your own.

The most common symptom of a foreign body in the nose is nasal drainage. The drainage appears only on the side of the nose with the object, and often has a bad odor. In some cases, your child may also have a bloody nose. Sometimes a whistling sound can be heard while your child is breathing.


Treatment of a foreign body in the nose involves prompt removal of the object by your child's primary care provider or otolaryngologist. Do not attempt to remove at home which may cause airway problems, including pushing the object further up the nose.

The following are some of the techniques that may be used by your child's provider to remove the object from the nose:

  • Using a machine with suction to help pull the object out
  • Inserting instruments into the nose to grasp or scoop out the foreign body
  • Going to the operating room, to remove the object while the child is asleep.

After removal of the object, your child's provider may prescribe nose drops, antibiotic ointments or oral antibiotics if an associated infection is suspected.

If there is any concern that the object may be a button battery, bring your child to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Reviewed by Zarana R. Swarup, MD, FAAP