‘Removal of a foreign body’ refers to the procedure of extracting an object that was inserted into the body and is not supposed to be there. For example, when children put things in their nose or ears, or if a person accidentally inhales something. Foreign body removal can take place in many parts of the body, including the ears, eyes, nose, airways & lungs, stomach and GI tract, skin, and more.
Retrieval of a foreign body can be necessary for any age population, but those in the ear, nose, and throat often occur in children. If the object is not immediately visible, it may be difficult to know what is happening, since the insertion of the object is not often observed. Ingested objects may be able to pass through the digestive tract on their own, but many foreign bodies will need to be removed by a doctor, sometimes under anesthesia. If the object is causing pain, is blocking the airway, is in the skin and is not easily removed at home (such as a deep or large splinter), or is in the eye, you may need to seek emergency medical care.
What are the most common parts of the body for foreign object removal?
- Ears & Nose: Infants and young children often put food, small toys, pieces of crayon, or other small objects in their ears and noses. Objects in the nose can make it difficult to breathe, cause a bloody nose, or cause an infection that produces foul-smelling drainage on just one side of the nose. Foreign bodies in the ears may impair hearing or cause pain, redness, or drainage.
- Throat and airway: Foreign bodies can enter the throat or airway through accidental inhalation or via objects being placed on the mouth and then blocking the airway, causing choking. Children often put objects in their mouth and choking is the leading cause of death in children under the age of 4. Objects inhaled often include nuts & seeds, grapes, hot dogs, small rocks, buttons, coins, and small toys. Choking is always considered an emergency and requires immediate medical attention.
- The digestive tract: Objects that are placed in the mouth can also wind up being swallowed. Sometimes these objects are small enough and safe enough to pass through the digestive system on their own. However, if the item gets stuck or is potentially harmful (such as a battery or magnets), it will have to be surgically removed.
When should I visit the ER?
Sometimes foreign bodies come out on their own or can be removed at home, but often they require special equipment, surgery, or even emergency medical attention. Please come to a Neighbors Emergency Center if you or your child are experiencing any of the following:
- Difficulty breathing
- Choking or airway blockage
- Turning blue or losing consciousness
- Pain or irritation around the foreign body
- Foreign body in the eye
- Unresolved cough that continues to worsen
- Signs of infection
- Foreign body not removed- unless it’s a splinter that can work its way out.
My experience was wonderful! Everyone was very professional and caring, and it didn’t take no time at all to be seen by the doctor.– Diana