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How to remove a foreign body

By Admin

Added 16th September 2020 06:22 PM

Foreign bodies may also introduce infections in the body, causing diseases.

How to remove a foreign body

As children play with toys, sometimes they break off certain parts and eat them or insert them in ear, resulting in complications

Foreign bodies may also introduce infections in the body, causing diseases.


There comes a stage when children get more active and scarily adventurous, especially around the time they start to crawl until about three years.

They tend to touch anything, especially shiny and colourful objects, putting them in the mouth, nose and ears.

These include beads, earrings, seeds, toy fragments and food. While some foreign objects pass harmlessly through the body, others may get lodged in there, resulting in complications and sometimes, death.

Foreign bodies may also introduce infections in the body, causing diseases.

Emma Tenywa, a general practitioner, says some foreign bodies, depending on where they have been placed, can be carefully removed by an adult, while those in delicate areas such as the throat have to be removed by a qualified medical worker.

He says some foreign bodies such as those that are swallowed may go unnoticed, but after some time, the child may develop complications. 

"Most of these foreign bodies can be removed by an ear, nose and throat specialists," says Michael Aubwa, a specialist in that area.

 Foreign bodies in the airway

A foreign body in the airway should be treated as a medical emergency. This is because it requires immediate attention as it can block the air supply, resulting in choking and eventually death.

According to Aubwa, in regard to foreign bodies, children under five years mostly die from chocking.

This is because children tend to inhale deeply, which may cause the object to get stuck in the airway tube (trachea) instead of the passage to the stomach (oesophagus).

Arnold Nkalibo, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist concurs: "Foreign bodies not only cause discomfort in children but can result into complication, therefore, they should be treated as an emergency.

For example, when a child swallows a fish bone, a doctor should be consulted immediately."

A foreign body in the airway can cause an infection, or distract the airway, resulting in difficult breathing.

A foreign body may also cause a child to guggle, cough and wheeze. In addition, the child may have difficulty breathing and speaking and may experience pain in the throat, developing a hoarse voice.

In some serious cases, the child may become unconscious.

Foreign bodies in the nose

Objects that children commonly insert in the nose include; seeds, clay, beads, buttons and pieces of toys.

These foreign bodies usually enter when the child is trying to smell the object and can result in nasal blockage or bleeding.

Depending on how deep the object is, once it has been removed, the, physician may prescribe nasal drops or antibiotics to prevent infections.

Foreign bodies in the ear

A foreign body such as a fragment of a toy, a button, small battery and food may get lodged in the ear canal, damaging the eardrum and resulting in an infection.

As a result, a child may experience pain in the ear, redness, pus draining from the ear and a foul smell.

A child's hearing may also be affected and the child may lose his hearing ability.


Parents should respond immediately they realise a foreign object anywhere in the body.

Failure to act immediately can cause complications such as blockage of the airway, resulting in death.

"Some patients seek medical help days later, after they have failed to remove the foreign body.

Sometimes it may be too late to save the child's life. What would have been easy to remove becomes hard because it overstayed.

"There is no medical treatment for foreign bodies, although sometimes surgery may be required to remove the object" Aubwa says.

First aid

If the foreign body is in the throat, position the child upside down and give him a slap on the back.

This may help to push out the foreign body. In case the child is older, squeeze him in the abdomen from behind.

If a child experiences difficulty while swallowing or breathing, rush the child to a hospital before the foreign body disrupts breathing.

If an object is partially out of the nose, try to remove it with fingers or tweezers.

Do not push it further into the nose. If it fails, have the child breathe through the mouth as you seek medical help.

For an object deeper in the nose, pinch the clear side of the nose closed and have the child blow the nose hard several times. This may dislodge the object.

Magnets are sometimes used if the object is metallic.

A physician may use a machine with suction to help pull the object out.

Manual removal can be attempted in a cooperative or sedated child if the object is easily visualised, and able to be grasped.

This story was first run on April 8, 2013.

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