A cruel blow

This comes up often enough that I have to blog about it: how do you get an object out of a child’s nose?

The reason this keeps coming up is no one seems to know what to do when it inevitably happens. Now as a reasonable, sane adult, you’re thinking to yourself, “Why on earth would I take an ordinary household item, like a cheerio, and shove it up my nose?” In response, I would have to say there are children out there who would stare in disbelief that you should even ask such a question. In their world, the question is, “Why not?”

When Kiddo#1 was a preschooler, we planted a little garden (by which I mean, nothing grew) and there were some leftover seeds. Among other things we’d planted peas, since they’re not hard to grow (see above) and because the packets had more seeds than we needed, the leftovers remained in packets on the counter.

My son came to me at some point and gave me to understand what we had planted in the garden was insufficient for his purposes, so he’d planted one by pushing it up his nose. I got a flashlight and there it was.

I’m not terribly smart, but even I knew that going in there with my tweezers would push it further. I was about to call the doctor (and get sent to the emergency room) when I remembered out insurance carrier had a nurse hotline. I called that first.

The nurse assessed the situation, then said, “There’s something to try before going to the emergency room. Sit him on a chair, and kneel beneath him. Pinch the opposite nostril shut (in other words, not the one with the obstruction) and blow into your son’s open mouth.”

I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s never going to work!”

Nurse: It’ll work.
Me: There’s no way.
Nurse: Just try it. It’ll work.
Me: You promise?
Nurse: Just go ahead and do it.
Me: Hold on.

I set aside the phone, positioned my son, pinched the opposite non-pea-planted nostril shut, and blew really hard into his mouth.

The pea shot out of his nostril.

I grabbed the phone. “It worked!”

The nurse exclaimed, “It DID?”

I gasped. “You made me do that and you didn’t even think it would work?”

She said, “That’s what came up on the computer, and I had to read it to you.”

Feeling like an idiot, and at the same time glad I didn’t have to wait around in the ER, I said, “I guess in the hospital they’d have a machine that would have puffed in a measured amount of atmospheric pressure, huh?”

“No,” she said. “They’d have used a tweezers.”

And there you have it, folks: a blow-by-blow description of how to remove an object from your child’s nose. May you never have to use this information, but if you do, you’ll be glad. Really.


  1. karen ^.,.^

    i learned with my third son that m&ms not only melt in your mouth, they also melt in your nose! 🙂

  2. Ivy

    My first thought would have been to grab a pair of 00000 dpns and used them like chopsticks. Way thinner than tweezers, and with more control, if less grip.

    1. philangelus

      THere really was no room to maneuver. Think about it — if there was enough of a seal for the air to force it out, it was in there really tight.

      1. Ivy

        Skin is flexible. I think that’s why she said the doctor would use tweezers. That dpn trick is how I used to get beads loose from the “flexible storage tubes” I’d used (made by a local craftsman and they seemed like a good idea at the time). It was either that, or blow on one end of the tube and the bead would pop out the other. I finally got smart and gave up on the tubes.

        1. philangelus

          Nasal tissue also perforates pretty easy. I wouldn’t use dpns on a squirmy toddler’s nose.

          1. Ivy

            Good point. Plastic tubes don’t squirm.

  3. bopper

    My daughter would put stuff up her nose when she was old enough for me to tell her to pinch one of her own nostrils and do the blowing maneuver. Later in her life she shaved her eyebrows off. No punishment for that, as it is its own reward…only for lying and saying that the razor fell down and that is how her eyebrows disappeared.

    1. philangelus

      So the razor fell from her ceiling while she was lying perfectly aligned to the plane of its fall? Wow, unlucky break. 😉

  4. Jason Black

    I’ve done exactly the same thing myself, except it was my daughter. And it wasn’t a dried pea, and somehow this strategy occurred to me before thinking that tweezers might do. But then, it was a (formerly) frozen pea, not a dried pea, so tweezers would just have mashed it up. We had a repeat, only with corn this time, a few days later.

    She hasn’t tried it again for a while, though. I do hope we’re past that stage now…

  5. Lane in PA

    I think we’re all missing the point here. There really is something wrong with our health care system. When I read:

    “I grabbed the phone. “It worked!”
    The nurse exclaimed, “It DID?”
    I gasped. “You made me do that and you didn’t even think it would work?”
    She said, “That’s what came up on the computer, and I had to read it to you.”

    well, I laughed out loud.

    Why do kids stuff things into their noses? Because they can. I learned that in Child Psychology 101. 🙂

  6. Promise

    As a wee one I stuck a small piece of (cooked) spaghetti up my left nostril. My mom, remembering having stuck a cooked pea up her nose as a child (apparently it’s a family tradition), commenced to having me sniff at the pepper jar in an attempt to make me sneeze (apparently this solution had worked on her). Well, this wasn’t working and my mom was becoming more and more upset when my dad came in from work. She told him what had happened and he calmly walked over to me, put his finger against my right nostril to shut it and had my blow hard through my nose. Out came the spaghetti.

    Funny the things that we remember.
    I never again stuck something up my nose.
    Somehow my sis is on her fourth boy toddler and so far none of them have stuck anything up their nose. I’m betting if she ever has the girl she’s always saying she wants, that she’ll make up for it!

  7. kit

    Oh dear. I’m scared now…because now that I’ve read this, it will happen. Really. (Sometime I’ll post about how to get a skunk out from under your house…) That’s how my life works, and why somehow I have a knack for remembering seemingly rivial things at crucial moments. But thanks for preparing me!

  8. cricketB

    Emerg can sedate if necessary, and if things go bad they have more options available right away. (The one time I took them and holding was needed, I told them, “I faint, better get someone else to hold the kid.” They listened.

    Careful with blowing like that. In first aid (admittedly 45 years ago) my parents were told if you blow too hard in AR you can rupture lungs, like divers who hold their breath on the way up. So, be gentle.

    Age 4, I liked picking my nose, and put gravel up so there’d be more to pick. One didn’t come back, so I stopped. I’m pretty sure the XRays for pneumonia were sometime after that, and no comment from the doctors.

    When Dtr was 4 we put her in the bath and she started screaming her ears hurt. She’d filled them with cardboard, which swelled when wet. (Swelled? Became swollen?) That was the first time OnebitCPU did a solo ER trip. All survived. Doctor wasn’t at all surprised it happened.