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Beans Up the Nose? Toys in Ears? How to Handle Kids Medical Mishaps

Blog Beans Up the Nose? Toys in Ears? How to Handle Kids Medical Mishaps

What should parents do when confronted with these strange scenarios? We asked Dr. Dahl to explain.


Doctors see their fair share of medical mishaps. But some might say that pediatric ear, nose, and throat doctors have seen it all. “Kids put weird foreign objects in their nose and ears all the time. You name it, we’ve seen it. I actually have a collection of inorganic foreign bodies that we’ve taken from the ears, nose, and airways of kids,” says John Dahl, M.D., otolaryngologist at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. What should parents do when confronted with these strange scenarios? We asked Dr. Dahl to explain.

Q. What should you do when your child gets a foreign object stuck in his ear?
A. Go to the doctor as soon as possible. Your attempts to extract the item without the proper tools could inadvertently push it farther into the ear. “Over time, the object in the ear could cause pain and infection, and it could block the ear canal and cause hearing loss,” says Dr. Dahl. “Organic foreign bodies, such as beans or other food, are the worst because as they deteriorate that can lead to a higher possibility of infection.” In the clinic, ENT doctors have special microscopes and ear graspers that enable them to remove the objects. In cases where the item is too far back in the ear canal and the child can’t tolerate the procedure in the clinic, doctors will do the extraction in the operating room where they can use anesthesia to make the process more comfortable.

Q. What should you do when your child sticks an object up his nose?
A. Again, go straight to the doctor. In the nose, we worry that a child could inhale the object and aspirate it, meaning it could go down the trachea, which becomes an airway foreign body and could be life threatening,” explains Dr. Dahl. “Ideally we try to take the object out with nasal graspers, but if we can’t do that, we often need to go into the operating room, put the child under general anesthesia, and intubate him as we remove the object.”

Q. What is one of the most dangerous medical emergencies that ENTs see?
A. “We really worry about button batteries. When kids put them in their nose, ears or mouth, it is extremely dangerous,” says Dr. Dahl. “The battery can discharge its alkaline energy in the body. In the ear, the battery can erode through the ear canal and ear drum and potentially cause permanent hearing loss; in the nose, it can erode through the nasal structure and cause a deformity of the nasal canal that is very difficult to fix; and the worse case scenario is if the battery is swallowed into the esophagus and trachea because this can cause the tissues to die, which can be fatal if not removed.” If you have any concern your child has put a button battery in her nose, mouth, or ear, you must go to the ER immediately to have it removed.

-- By Rachel Rabkin Peachman

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