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What to do when small objects get stuck in a child’s ears or nose

From beads and popcorn kernels to LEGO parts and foam stuffing, I have found all sorts of small objects lodged in children’s ears and noses. In my 30 years of experience as a pediatric ear, nose and throat doctor, I’ve seen it all, including even a live tick in an ear.

Most children susceptible to this problem are ages 3 and under, but I have removed foreign objects from the ears and noses of kids up to age 11.

In most cases, getting an object in the ear or nose does not pose a serious threat, but it’s important that parents keep their homes safe and know what to do in the event an item does get stuck.

What to do if an object does get stuck

  • DO NOT try to get the object out yourself. You could do damage by inadvertently getting the item lodged farther in.
  • Take your child to his or her pediatrician. The pediatrician may make a referral to an ear, nose and throat doctor to retrieve the item safely and with minimal damage.
  • Go to the emergency department if your child put a battery in the nose or swallowed it. Batteries can cause tremendous damage. The alkaline can leak and damage the wall of the nose and esophagus.

What parents can do to keep kids safe

  • Get down on the floor for a 360-degree view of the room. Your children are on their knees crawling around, and it’s hard to check for small objects when you’re standing five or six feet above the floor.
  • I strongly recommend that parents do not allow peanuts or popcorn in the home until the youngest child is 5. A good popcorn substitute is dissolvable corn puffs, and the only peanuts should be in chunky peanut butter.
  • Keep toddlers and other young children out of older kids’ rooms, where there could be small objects.
  • Be mindful of the items you bring into the house, and always dispose of batteries immediately.