What is a foreign body (FB)?
Foreign body or FB is an object or piece of extraneous matter that has entered the body by accident or design. It is common to see certain items getting stuck in the ear, nose or throat especially, in young children. While most of the time they do not raise an alarm, however, sometimes they can lead to severe consequences like rupture of the eardrum or even choking.
How do FBs affect ear, nose and throat?
- Children over 9 months develop an ability to pick up objects. As they explore the environment around them, they tend to put items such as peas, beans, marbles, beads, cotton, paper, etc, in their mouth, nose or ears. A similar trend can be seen in adults with mental disorders.
- Trauma/ fall/accident can force FBs like rock, pebbles into the ear, nose or throat.
- Adults while riding a bike or sleeping on the ground (campsites) can have insects: flies, ants, roaches fly into the nose or ear.
- Choking occurs when FBs block the airway, common reasons are: not chewing the food properly, diseases like Parkinsonism, drinking alcohol or certain drugs that slowdowns the process of swallowing.
Managing FB in the ear, nose and throat
Foreign bodies in the ear
Symptoms: Pain in the ear, discharge or bleeding from the ear, feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear and dizziness and nausea in extreme cases.
- Make sure the patient is sitting in an upright position, pull the pinna or outer semicircle of the ear towards the back. This can help you see the object clearly and also loosen it to wiggle out. If you can see the object clearly, use a tweezer to grasp the object and gently remove.
- In case a live insect gets trapped inside the ear lie down and place few drops of warm vegetable or baby oil. Use oil only if symptoms of eardrum perforation like pain, bleeding/discharge from the ear is absent.
- Tilting the head to the affected side can facilitate gravity to dislodge the object.
Foreign bodies in the nose:
Symptoms: Pain and difficulty in breathing from that side of the nose.
Management: Keep the uninvolved nostril closed by pressing a finger against the side of the nose and gently ask the person to blow from the affected nostril.
Foreign bodies in the throat:
Symptoms: Choking, inability to breathe and speak
Management: Perform Heimlich maneuver: abdominal thrusts, if trained otherwise, it is advised to call for medical help immediately.
How can you prevent foreign bodies from entering your ear, nose, throat?
- Discourage talking, playing, laughing when food is in the mouth.
- Do not give whole grapes, popcorn, nuts to children below 3 years.
- Keep small objects out of reach of small children.
- Teach children to avoid placing objects into their nose, ears.
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