Driving to the doctor’s office in a mad rush to remove a crayon that has broken off in your child’s nose? Who hasn’t? Though the depth and object might differ, this is a common problem among babies and toddlers. Journey with us today to find out why and how to fix it.
Last month 19-month-old Abigail Reece Steenekamp was rushed to the doctor’s office after four weeks of extreme discomfort. Abigail just wouldn’t stop crying, her appetite vanished, she drank about 12 to 14 bottles of fluid per day, she refused to take her vitamins, she wouldn’t sleep, had a runny nose and a faint fever. At first her mother thought it might be a cold or flu and tried to treat it, but it was in vain.
The penny finally dropped when Abigail’s nose began bleeding and emanated a pungent smell. Finally the nightmare was over when the doctor removed a tiny piece of mattress foam from her right nostril, which Abigail had managed to pluck from her camping cot, despite all the coverings. The blockage caused an infected nose and a sinus drip. To her mother’s delight, Abigail returned to her normal self almost immediately after the object was removed – laughing, eating and sleeping as she used to.
How do I know it’s not a cold or flu?
If your child’s nostrils are blocked, you can expect to see a bloody nose, bad breath, a vanished appetite, nasal congestion and secondary flu-like symptoms. Before administering any cold or flu medicines, first inspect your child’s nasal passages by tilting his or her head back and pointing a small flashlight up the nostrils. This method of detection is not always effective, as the object could already be further up the passage. If symptoms of cold or flu persist, and is coupled with a bloody nose, it is best to seek medical attention.
Most common objects found in kids’ noses
Many mothers go through this horror with children usually between the ages of one to six, according to Dr Michael Pitt, the director of the Paediatric Convenient Care Clinic at Lurie’s Children’s Hospital of Chicago. But some aren’t as lucky as Abigail’s mother who was able to detect it in four weeks. KSL.com tells a story of little Isaak Lasson from Salt Lake City who had a large-size Lego piece lodged in his nose for three years.
Doctors say crayons are among the most common objects children stick up their noses. Other popular objects include tissues, beads, coins, erasers, toys like play dough, Barbie shoes or marbles. Special favourites are food like peas, beans, breakfast cereal, spaghetti and french fries. Even bugs find their way up there.
According to Pitt, some things lodged up your kid’s nose are more dangerous than others, like ingesting two magnets which can connect and destroy tissue. Toy batteries are equally dangerous.
Why do they stick it up there?
Kids are curious little explorers. One theory is that not only do kids want to explore the dimensions of their own bodies, but also the dimensions of their toys or whatever they get their hands on. They do this with their senses. The closest sensory hole is the mouth where kids get to use their taste buds, then the nose where they can really get a good whiff, and off course their ears, just in case it makes a sound.
Dr. Jonathan Powell, a paediatrician with Resurrection Medical Group in Chicago, confirms our theory, “This is how children investigate their environment. When they are babies, they stick everything in their mouth. As they get a little older, they try other places.”
Another theory is that kids do it for fun, or to be silly or naughty. Sometimes this is attention-seeking behaviour, says clinical psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo.
Another interesting fact is that, according to Pitt, items found in ears have an equal frequency for both boys and girls. However, girls are twice as likely as boys to use their noses to explore.
How to remove the foreign object
In an effort to try and pull the item out from their noses, kids often do the opposite. They push it back even further, making it hard to detect and remove. This can damage the tissue and cause blockages with further complications.
Safe home remedies include blowing the nose or sneezing. Blowing the nose, while closing off the unaffected nostril with your finger, could dislodge the object. Another method is to induce sneezing by smelling pepper. This is a very effective way to force the object out, especially if the other nostril is closed off.
Do not, under any circumstance try to pull out the object if it is not hanging out of the nose, or you could risk damaging tissue. Do not attempt removing the item with tweezers, cotton swabs or other household items.
Under the supervision of a medical professional, you can try the following technique: close off the unaffected nostril with your fingers and seal your mouth over your child’s mouth. Now blow gently. This could hopefully result in the object flying out of your child’s nose onto your cheek. Be careful not to blow too hard.
If these methods prove unsuccessful, a doctor should be sought out. It is advisable not to give your child anything to eat or drink, as this can cause further blockages or make it harder for them to breathe. As sedation is a possibility to remove larger objects, an empty stomach would be preferable.
Prevention is always better than cure, so keep those small objects away from your child as far as possible. The preferable age group of a toy will be indicated on it – don’t take it lightly. As always, try to keep baby and toddler safe and happy.