Diseases & Conditions
Objects in the Ears and Nose
Cotton, pieces of pencils, paper, pebbles, and beans are just a few of the many objects children put in their ears and nose. Insects sometimes crawl into ears and cause significant pain.
Objects in the ear can be removed by flushing with sterile water or saline, using suction, or with forceps or other tools. A doctor may remove an insect by putting a topical anesthetic or mineral oil in the ear, which kills the insect, stops pain, and makes removal easier. Younger, more frightened children may need sedation or general anesthesia for these procedures.
Sharp objects, such as pencils, can perforate the child's eardrum. Perforations require evaluation by an ear specialist, but most heal by themselves over time without loss of hearing.
Objects stuck up the nose are of greater concern because they can obstruct the child's airway, cause infection, and be difficult to remove. Children are often scared to admit they put an object in their nose; many parents become aware of the problem only after the child develops persistent bleeding, a runny nose, a foul-smelling discharge, or difficulty breathing on one side of the nose only.
Doctors use a topical anesthetic and attempt to remove the object using suction or forceps. If these measures do not work, the doctor may need to sedate the child or give general anesthesia to remove the object.
Last full review/revision February 2003
Source: The Merck Manual Home Edition