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Image: Child in a yard with his finger over his nose

Your child put a bead up their nose. Now what?

A HealthPartners ear nose and throat doctor for kids gives his tips on how to remove a foreign object from the nose.


By Derek Schmidt, MD
September 18, 2018

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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 doctor for kids and adults alike (an otolaryngologist), I’m an expert in most all things that have to do with noses. I figured I was the perfect person to remove the pea stuck up my child’s nose. I used my otoscope, a device usually used to look in ears, to look up his nose. I then used the scope as a guide for my curette, a surgical tool usually used to remove things by scooping.

Keep in mind, though, there’s no sitting still with a toddler. Plus, my son is strong. So unfortunately, even as a professional I couldn’t get the pea out. (I may be an expert, but I’m always reminded that I’m not always successful!)

After a small fight and lots of tears, I had to go to work, unsuccessful completing the task at hand. Thankfully, after I got to work, I received a text saying my son had sneezed the pea out.

Beads and peas aren’t the only foreign objects in the nose of a child that I’ve found.

I have removed many other strange items from kids’ noses, including:

  • Crayon wraps
  • Stickers
  • Band-Aids
  • Watch batteries

In fact, I once pulled out a battery that had been in a child’s nose for almost two years.

How do you know if your toddler stuck something up their nose?

There are usually a few telltale signs when there is something like a bead up their nose. The biggest clue is if drainage is coming out of one nostril only.

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.

Home remedies for how to remove a foreign object from the nose

If you can get your child to blow their nose, there may be hope that you can get whatever is stuck up their nose to come out at home. Have your child take a deep breath in. Plug their clear nostril so air can only go out through the nostril with the foreign object in it. Have them blow out. Make sure you have tweezers ready, just in case.

You don’t need an emergency trip to the hospital if your toddler stuck something up their nose

If your child put a bead up their nose (or something else like it, like a pea) and they cannot blow their nose, you don’t need to rush to the emergency room. It usually can wait until the next day, when your family’s primary care physician is available or you can see an ear, nose and throat doctor for your kid. Most foreign objects like a bead up the nose can be removed during a clinic visit at the doctor’s office. Occasionally, there is a trip to the operating room if it can’t be removed in clinic.

The most concerning foreign object in the nose is a button 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.

If your child ever decides the pea on their plate or the bead from their bracelet would fit nicely in their nose: Start with a visit to their primary care physician. But if that doesn’t work, most ear, nose and throat doctors will be able to remove it. Browse ear, nose and throat doctors who see patients in HealthPartners and Park Nicollet clinics in the Twin Cities, Central Minnesota and Western Wisconsin.

About Derek Schmidt, MD

Dr. Derek Schmidt is an ear, nose and throat doctor at HealthPartners Specialty Center and Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn. He is the otolaryngology department head for HealthPartners Medical Group and also practices at Hudson Hospital & Clinic in Hudson, Wis. Kids are some of Dr. Schmidt’s favorite patients to work with, and while he enjoys treating all areas within his specialty, he particularly enjoys treating issues involving the salivary gland, thyroid and parathyroid surgery. Dr. Schmidt is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology at the University of Minnesota. And at Regions, he is directly involved in teaching medical residents. He takes a great pride in educating those training to become the next generation of physicians. In his spare time, Dr. Schmidt enjoys spending time with his wife and his two boys, being out on the lake, golfing, and food and wine pairings.

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