Signup for our newsletter to receive pregnancy, parenting and child health updates.

articles and blog

What are foreign bodies?

Pediatricians, surgeons, and other medical practitioners refer to objects that don't belong inside you as foreign bodies. For young children, foreign bodies most frequently enter the human body through openings like the throat, nose, and ears.

Parents beware, here's a list of common objects that often find their way into places where they don't belong, including:

  • Food
  • Insects
  • Toys
  • Buttons
  • Crayons
  • Batteries
  • Coins
  • Tissue
  • Clay
  • Erasers
  • Seeds
  • Grapes
  • Hot Dogs
  • Pebbles
  • Nuts

How can parents prevent choking in young children?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, death by choking is a leading cause of death and injury among children younger than 4 years of age. This means it is up to parents to keep a close eye on what's inside the quick, little hands of their children especially during playtime and mealtime.

To prevent choking:

  • Cut food into manageable bites
  • Never let children play or lie down with food
  • Pick up loose change around the house
  • Pick up small items (like buttons & magnets) around the house
  • Read warning labels on all toys
  • Learn first aid for choking

What are the symptoms that a foreign body is in my child's throat?

Foreign bodies in the throat pose an immediate choking threat and require immediate medical attention.

If you notice any of these symptoms, your child may be choking on a foreign body and should receive immediate medical attention:

  • Choking or gagging
  • Harsh coughing
  • Wheezing or whistling sound upon exhale
  • Inability to speak
  • Pain in throat or chest
  • Hoarseness in voice
  • Blueness around lips
  • Not breathing
  • Unconscious

What are the symptoms that a foreign body is in my child's nose?

Foreign bodies may occasionally find their way into your child's nose through a child's attempts to smell and inspect the object.

The most common symptom of a foreign body in the nose is nasal drainage. The drainage appears only on the side of the nose with the object and often has a bad odor. In some cases, the child may also have a bloody nose.

Treatment of a foreign body in the nasal passage involves prompt removal of the object by your child's health care provider. Consult your child's health care provider to determine whether sedation is necessary in order to completely eliminate the blockage and free the object.

What are the symptoms that a foreign body is in my child's ear?

While not as common, children may also push objects deep enough into the ear canal to cause health concerns.

Depending on the size and nature of the object, some foreign bodies may not pose any threat when lodged in the ear. Others, like certain foods and small insects, can cause more serious symptoms like pain, redness, or drainage.

Be Sure To Follow Up

Always follow up with your child's health care provider to ensure the necessary care and treatment are in place to guarantee your child's full recovery.

Sarah Broadhead, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic 192Dodge Pediatrics

As a little girl, Dr. Sarah Broadhead wanted to grow up to be "just like my favorite aunt 'Dr. Deb.'" As a pediatrician, Dr. Broadhead ('Dr. Sarah') is excited to share in fun milestones as well as hard decisions.  She feels that the parent, child-patient and doctor are a 3-way team and trust is important. "I want them to trust in my judgment and experience and I trust that the parent knows that little girl or boy best." Dr. Broadhead explains: "Kids are amazi ...

Learn more about this expert

Categories: development, health-notes,