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

    I suppose that we can also learn something here about assumed authority and our trust in the words of others: she was a nurse, she sounded sure, and you believed her. So how can we use this in our own world and our own work? All sorts of scenarios come to mind!

    1. philangelus

      After my first birth, I did stop believing doctor’s and nurses, unfortunately. The reason this sounded convincing was that it went with my natural inclinations: you CAN fix this without a doctor and by using the body’s natural functions in a way conforming to the body’s design.

      The fact that she didn’t believe what she was telling me is more problematic, and the reason I no longer trust doctors and nurses as implicitly as I did in, say, 1996.

  2. Marie

    Cocoa Krispies dissolve when the child cries enough.

    1. philangelus

      **giggle** Good to know. I bet the same is true for Rice Krispies, except you can hear them going Snap Krackle Pop.

  3. Kate

    I haven’t had to extract something from a nose yet (though I’m making a note of this method) but I did have a stroke of genius once when trying to figure out how to get a bead out of my son’s ear. After he had shoved it in further with fingers and I had gingerly attempted with tweezers and oil, I thought of the nose-sucker bulb thingy you use for babies. Sure enough, I still had one around, it was small enough to fit in, and it sucked the bead right out! I was pretty proud of myself. 🙂

  4. cricketB

    Careful with that remedy. Too much pressure can do serious damage, fast, to their lungs. That’s why divers have to breathe out as they ascend, and we use only puffs when doing CPR on infants.

    My daughter put cardboard in her ears when she was four. We discovered it during the evening hairwash. Husband took her to ER. Apparently the doctor didn’t even blink. I forget why Daughter said she did it, something about wanting to keep the cardboard for later.

    1. philangelus

      Windbag though I am, I can’t imagine I have that much air in my lungs. 🙂

  5. Sara Ann Denson

    Are you signed up for this blog?  She always has such great posts on life.  I laughed on this one and thought you’d enjoy.

  6. Jamie @ Prepared to Eat

    I wish I had known this when my 18 month old daughter crammed a piece of corn up her nose. That cost us $200. Most expensive corn I’ve ever bought!

    1. philangelus

      Ouch! Yeah, that’s not normally in one’s dinner budget. 🙁