For several days I looked at my two-year-old son and thought, “boy, that booger looks a little green. Maybe a little too green.”
Enough time had passed that my son should have been able to get his nose cleared, but it hadn’t happened. It was time to see if my toddler stuck something up his nose that he shouldn’t have. Maybe, I thought, it would be one of the somewhat usual suspects: a bead.
On closer inspection, it was a pea. My son had stuck a pea up his nose.
As an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor for kids and adults alike, I’m an expert in almost all things that have to do with noses. I figured I was the perfect person to help get the pea out of my child’s nose.
But there’s no sitting still with a toddler, and my son is strong. So unfortunately, even as a professional, I couldn’t get the pea out.
After a small fight and lots of tears, I had to go to work – unsuccessful at completing the task at hand. Thankfully, I received a text later that day saying my son had sneezed the pea out. Whether or not the pea would have come out without my “help,” we’ll never know.
I use this story as illustration that it can be hard to get an object out of your child’s nose. And while it’s not usually an emergency, you don’t want a foreign object to stay up there forever.
So, what should you do if you think your kiddo has something stuck up their nose? Read on to learn the answers.
How do you know if your toddler has something stuck in their nose?
In my situation, the big giveaway was the bright green object I could see when my son moved his head. But sometimes the objects are stuck up further in the nasal passage and you can’t see them.
Even if you can’t see something like a bead in your child’s nose, there are usually a few telltale signs there’s a problem. The biggest clue is if drainage is coming out of only one nostril.
There is also a certain bad smell that’s quite suggestive of a foreign object in the nose. It’s one of those odors where, once you’ve smelled it, you’ll never forget it. It’s worse than “normal” bad breath.
What objects can get stuck in a child’s nose? You’d be surprised.
Peas and beads stuck in a child’s nose aren’t the only foreign objects I’ve found. I have removed many other strange items from kids’ noses, including:
- Crayon wraps
- Watch batteries
Even more impressive, sometimes these items have been stuck in the child’s nose for weeks, even years. To underscore an earlier point, when something is stuck up your child’s nose, it’s not usually an emergency.
However, one concerning foreign object in the nose is a battery. It’s best to have this removed as soon as possible because the battery can create a hole in your child’s septum if it stays in their nose long enough. This can lead to nose bleeds, crustiness, congestion and even a change in the outward appearance of the nose.
What should I do if my child has something stuck up their nose?
1. Try not to panic
Remember, this sort of thing happens every day and it’s usually no big deal.
2. Check how your child is feeling
Most of the time, kiddos don’t seem very concerned that they have something lodged in their nostril. Often, they’ll be like my toddler who happily walked around for days with a pea stuck in his nose. But if your child is upset or crying, calm them down. If they’re having trouble breathing or if they’re in pain, see a doctor right away.
3. Get your child to blow their nose
Instruct your child to take a deep breath in, plug their clear nostril so air can only go out through the nostril with the foreign object in it, and then blow out. This might be enough to get whatever is stuck up their nose to come out. If your child can’t yet blow their nose, you can prepare for next time with my tips in the next section.
How to teach a child to blow their nose
If your kiddo has the skills to blow their nose, getting out that pea or Lego can be a lot easier. But the best time to teach this important skill is when your child doesn’t have something stuck up their nose.
Most children are developmentally able to blow something out of their nose by age 2, but many don’t master the skill until they’re 7 or 8. The key to success? Your child needs to be willing to try.
Here are some tips for teaching your child how to blow their nose:
- Encourage your child to practice blowing their nose when you do.
- Show off the snot that comes out and explain how your nose feels better afterwards. It’s no secret that kids love gross stuff!
- Find ways to make nose-blowing fun. Maybe challenge your child to make a sound louder than an elephant.
- Remind them of the alternative – getting cleared out by the bulb syringe. Chances are you know how to get boogers out of your toddler’s nose when they don’t come out – you suction their nose with a bulb syringe. Many kids find this suctioning unpleasant. So, this can be a great opportunity to teach your child to blow their nose.
4. Try the mother’s kiss method
This method works best for small, hard objects like beads. Here’s how to do it: while using your finger to plug your child’s clear nostril, place your mouth over your child’s mouth. Then blow gently – the force of your breath might be enough to force the object out.
5. Don’t use your fingers, a Q-tip or a suction bulb to try to remove the object
When trying to remove an object, nothing should go into the nose since there’s a chance that you could push the object up further.
6. If necessary, make a doctor’s appointment
If your child put a bead or something similar up their nose and they cannot blow their nose, you don’t need to rush to the emergency room. Most foreign objects up the nose can be removed during a clinic visit. Occasionally, there’s a trip to the operating room if it can’t be removed in a clinic.
Stuck on what to do about the object in your child’s nose? We can help
If there’s something stuck in your child’s nose, contact your child’s doctor. They’ll be able to safely remove the object or, if necessary, refer you to an ENT doctor like me.
Your child’s doctor can also provide some additional tips about teaching your kiddo to blow their nose. So next time a peanut or a marble gets stuck in your child’s nose, it will be a lot easier to get it out.