Updated 10 March 2014

Ear today, gone tomorrow!

What do you do when an annoying little insect has crept into your ear or one of the kids has pushed a bead up his nose?

Believe it or not, a small object like a seed or popcorn kernel that has lodged in your child’s ear or nose could choke him if it moves into his airways. It could also block the sinuses and he’ll feel like he has a cold.

Adults realise very quickly if something is stuck in their ear or nose – but small children aren’t that aware or good at identifying what’s bothering them.

Watch out for green or yellow discharge from the nose, accompanied by an unpleasant odour. If the nose is sensitive, swollen or starts to bleed, then there could well be something lodged in the upper nasal passages.

If your hearing is suddenly impaired, this could be a sign that something is lodged in the ear canal. A darker discharge or pain would accompany the hearing loss, while living insects can scratch and damage the ear drum, causing nausea.

Removing objects from the ear
• Turn your head so that the affected ear faces downwards. Straighten the ear canal by pulling the ear lobe slightly upwards and away from your head. Shake your head gently in this position.
• Don’t use an ear bud or anything similar as you could force the object deeper into your ear.

How to remove a live insect from your ear
• Pull the ear lobe upwards and back to straighten the ear canal. Shine a torch into the ear cavity. The insect should crawl out after a few minutes.
• If that doesn’t work, put three to five lukewarm drops of mineral oil or baby oil in the ear canal. Make sure the oil is not too warm. The insect will suffocate and will wash out with the oil. Don’t use oil if you suspect the eardrum has burst (in this case, the ear will be painful and you’ll have hearing loss). Don’t wash out the ear with water if you suspect that organic material, such as a seed, is stuck in the ear because water could make it swell.
• Consult a doctor if you can’t remove the object after the first attempt or if there is bleeding or a discharge. Go to a doctor immediately if the object is a small CD battery or a magnet. The battery in a hearing aid, for example, can fall out and its dangerous chemicals could leak into the ear.

Removing objects from the nose
• Block the unaffected nostril and gently try to blow the object out of the nose cavity. Blow once and as hard as you would to clean your nose. Don’t continue blowing if the object isn’t dislodged the first time as continued blowing could cause inflammation.
• Steer clear of decongestants as these remedies reduce swelling for only a short time and using sprays repeatedly could aggravate the problem. Any medication must be prescribed by a doctor.
• Don’t try to remove the object with a pair of tweezers; you could end up with a nosebleed. You could also break the object into smaller pieces and push them further into the nose.

(Betina Louw, Health24, September 2013)

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