What to do if your child puts something up their nose or in their ear

What do you do when your child puts something up their nose? [Photo: Getty]
What do you do when your child puts something up their nose? [Photo: Getty]

“Mum I’ve put a pea up my nose!” It’s a statement that strikes fear into all parents.

But recent research has revealed that what we laugh off as a child’s right of passage to put a coin/piece of lego/this morning’s toast up their nose or in their ear is actually costing the NHS £3m a year!

A new paper, titled Will Children Ever Learn?, found that youngsters were responsible for the vast majority of hospital cases where medics needed to remove items from ears and noses.

Between 2010 and 2016, 8,752 nasal and 17,325 aural (ear) foreign bodies were removed from adults and children.

Youngsters were responsible for 95% of objects removed from noses and 85% of objects removed from ears.

Apparently the favoured item to put in an orifice is jewellery but youngsters are also shoving toys, pencils and cotton buds into their nose and ears.

But what is it that little ones find so attractive about using their nostrils as a temporary storage solution?

Mr Yakubu Karagama, consultant ENT surgeon at BMI The Alexandra Hospital in Manchester says children between the age of 2 and 3 are more likely to insert a foreign body in the either their nose or ears. “Often it’s out of curiosity the child wants to know what else can go into these openings,” he says.

While not usually life-threatening, according to Dr Nagete​ Boukhezra, from the walk-in GP, London Doctors Clinic, an object stuck in the nostrils could lead to difficulty breathing.

“A foreign body in the nose can cause bleeding and infection,” he says. “While a foreign body in the ear can cause pain, dizziness, bleeding, infection or damage to the eardrum.”

Kids putting things in the noses and ears is costing the NHS £3m [Photo: Getty]
Kids putting things in the noses and ears is costing the NHS £3m [Photo: Getty]

So what should you do when your child decides to use their ear hole or nostril to store their food and toys?

“The main thing is not to panic and keep your child calm,” says “Mr Neil De Zoysa, consultant ENT and thyroid surgeon at The Harbour Hospital, Dorset.

Mr De Zoysa suggests trying to find out what the foreign body is. “Corrosive items such as batteries, caustic materials or tablets require urgent removal by an ENT specialist.”

“Nasal foreign bodies can be blown out by your child they are old enough to understand your instructions,” he explains. “But it is best not to try to remove the foreign body yourself if none of it lies outside the nostril or outside the ear canal hole.

“Children can be easily frightened by the experience if it is unsuccessful and may not allow further attempts to be made by experienced specialists and subsequently may require a general anaesthetic to remove the foreign body.”

Dr Boukhezra advises parents not to remove the object with their finger or other object like cotton buds as you risk pushing it deeper into your child’s nose/ears.

“If the object is lodged firmly and deeply in your child’s nose/ear or if you cannot see it, do no try to remove it. Take your child to the nearest A&E department or minor injuries unit.”

And there are certain instances where immediate action is required.

“Nasal foreign bodies are more of an emergency as there is a risk of inhaling it into the windpipe,” explains Anooj Majithia, consultant ENT surgeon at BMI The Clementine Churchill Hospital in West London. “It is very rare for this to happen though.”

“Call 911, if your child has difficulty breathing,” advises Dr Boukhezra. “Or if you suspect an object containing chemicals (like a small battery), this can burn the nasal passages/ear canal. In this case, we advise to go to your nearest emergency department as it should be removed quickly.”

So what will happen when you rock up at A&E with a child with a nostril full of raisons?

“Different treatments/techniques are available including suction, irrigation, forceps but this will depend on the object involved, the location of the object and the symptoms,”Dr Boukhezra says.

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