Foreign Objects in The Ear

Many objects can accidentally find their way into your child’s ear and it is not your fault if your child inserts or pushes a small object into their ear.  Some of the common items include:

  • Food – small individual items like peas, seeds, sweets, beans
  • Beads
  • Small toys – bricks, marbles
  • Crayons
  • Buttons
  • Stones
  • Insects
  • Button batteries
  • Disc magnets


Button batteries and Disc magnets can be extremely dangerous if inside the body and you should phone 999 immediately if your child has inserted either of these into their ear.


How do I know if my child has something in their ear?

Unless you see your child insert an object into their ear or your child can communicate to you that they have either done so or are suffering from discomfort in their ear, you will need to look out for symptoms that may suggest there is a problem.

Symptoms can include:

  • Your child tugging at or pulling at their ear. This may suggest discomfort or pain.
  • Your child may have red or swollen ears
  • Your child has difficulty hearing. They may not respond to you or they may start talking louder than usual.
  • In rare cases, you may notice blood or a discharge coming out of the ear.
  • Your child may complain of a buzzing or moving sound in their ear.
  • A change in breathing patterns can sometimes be a sign of a blockage in the ear.

Sometimes, a child has no symptoms and so if you have lost a small item, you may want to check your child ears.


What should I do?

It is important to keep your child calm.  You should not try to remove the object yourself as this is more likely to push it in to the ear further.  You should seek medical advice by calling 111.  If you child is in pain or discomfort, you may decide to give a dose or paracetamol or ibuprofen making sure you follow the instructions.

If it is an insect in your child’s ear, you may be advised to tilt your child’s head with the affected ear facing upwards.  You should gently pour tepid water into the ear which should allow the insect to float to the surface.  It is important to check the water temperature and follow the advice given to you.


What will a Doctor do?

A doctor will have the right equipment to look inside your child’s ear and assess the situation clearly.  There are several techniques that a doctor can try to remove an object including:

  • Flushing it out
  • Sucking it out
  • Pulling it out

If the doctor cannot remove it or your child is struggling to stay still during the procedure,  you will be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist who may need to use anaesthetic to remove the object.


What next?

After the object has been removed, your child should be able to carry on as normal.  There is a small chance that a small infection may have occurred as fluid can build up behind the blocking object.  If this happens, your child will be given a course of antibiotics.

If a child is old enough to remember this experience, they are unlikely to want to repeat it and will not place anything else into their ear.  A younger child, however, is likely to carry on experimenting and so you should keep a watchful eye on your child especially around small items.

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