Do you ‘nose’ where that bead is hiding?

9 March 2020

Decorative beads, rocks and insects were the top three items removed from children’s ears and noses at the Queensland Children’s Hospital in the past year.

LEGO pieces, ball bearings, toys, pieces of paper, pencil erasers and seeds were also among the top 10 items that resulted in a trip to the emergency department for an extraction.

Food was also popular, with popcorn being the most common stuck snack, followed by sultanas, berries and pieces of apple.

Around five kids each week present to Emergency at the Queensland Children’s Hospital with foreign items wedged inside their ear canals and nasal cavities. While some can be safely removed in the ED, others may need to be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Queensland Children’s Hospital Emergency consultant Dr Aaron Johnston said it was important parents and carers sought medical help early if they suspected their child had something stuck where it shouldn’t be.

“An item stuck up a nostril or in the ear is generally not life-threatening if it is identified and removed as soon as possible. However, problems can occur when the foreign item goes undetected. For example, an item in a child’s nose could be inhaled while they are sleeping and potentially cause a severe airway obstruction,” Dr Johnston said.

“Emergency situations also occur when an object is causing a child pain or distress, such as a live insect in the ear canal, or if there is the possibility of electric or chemical injury – like we see with button batteries.”

Common signs that a child has a foreign object stuck in their ear can include:

  • decreased hearing on one side,
  • feeling of fullness in their ear canal, and/or
  • pain in, or around the ear.

Common signs that a child has a foreign object stuck in their nose can include:

  • foul odours,
  • a runny nose (usually from one side only),
  • a blocked nostril, and/or
  • nosebleeds.

“If a child has a foreign body in one ear, it is always important to check the other ear as well. I once saw a child who had ball bearings in both ears, and when I asked why, he simply replied, ‘I was trying to push it out from the other side’,” Dr Johnson said.

“If your child has something stuck in their nose, try getting them to blow it out, or if it’s a large item you can see, try gently removing it with blunt tweezers.

“If you aren’t convinced you can safely remove the item, or if you are unable to successfully do so, seek medical attention to prevent pushing it further into the ear or nose where it could cause damage or unnecessary distress.”

If it’s possible your child may have pushed a battery or item containing toxic chemicals inside their ear or nose, or if they are having trouble breathing, call 000 and ask for an ambulance.


Media contact: t: +61 7 3068 5111 e:

Top 10 items extracted from children’s noses and ears in 2019 at the Queensland Children’s Hospital

  1. Bead
  2. Rock
  3. Insect
  4. LEGO
  5. Paper
  6. Popcorn
  7. Ball/Ball bearing
  8. Pencil eraser
  9. Seed
  10. Toy

Source: Queensland Children’s Hospital