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First Aid Treatment For Foreign Bodies

Children are prone to putting objects into their nose, ears and mouth. If left for some time, such objects can cause infection that may result in permanent damage. Young children are also particularly liable to swallow small objects. These usually pass through the system and can be identified in the bowel movement as having safely moved through the body. Larger or sharp objects pose a greater risk of internal injury. If there are signs of difficulty breathing, the object may have gone down the windpipe rather than the tube to the stomach.

Foreign bodies in the ear

Signs and symptoms of a foreign body in the ear

  • Pain
  • Temporary deafness
  • Discharge

First Aid Treatment

Do not attempt to remove an object from the ear as you are likely to push it in further, causing more damage, particularly to the ear-drum. Reassure the child and take her to hospital.

Insect in the ear

Signs and symptoms of an insect in the ear

  • Very loud buzzing/ringing noise in the ear
  • Pain or discomfort

First Aid Treatment

  1. Sit the child down and reassure him before giving treatment.
  2. Lean the child's head towards the unaffected side and pour tepid water into the ear with the aim of floating the insect out.
  3. If this does not work, take the child to hospital as soon as possible.

Foreign bodies in the nose

The key priority with any object in the nose is the maintenance of a clear airway. If at anytime the object appears to be making breathing difficult, follow the procedures for choking and make a call for emergency help.

Signs and symptoms of a foreign body in the nose

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Discharge (if the object has been there for some time)
  • Breathing difficulties
  • A snoring sound on breathing

First Aid Treatment

  1. Sit the child down, and reassure him.
  2. Encourage the child to breathe through his mouth rather than his nose.
  3. Do not attempt to remove the object as you may push it further in, causing more damage.
  4. Take or send the child to hospital so that the object can be removed.

Foreign bodies in the eye

Small items stuck to the white of the eye can be very irritating but are usually easy to remove. If an item is embedded in the eye or is stuck on the coloured part of the eye (the iris), do not attempt to remove it. Cover the eye as appropriate and take or send the person to hospital for treatment.

Signs and symptoms of a foreign body in the eye

  • Irritation and/or pain
  • Watering and/or red eye
  • Blurred vision

First Aid Treatment

  1. Sit the person down facing the light so that you can clearly see what needs to be removed.
  2. Examine the eye by gently separating the eyelids with your finger and thumb. Ask the person to move the eye up and down and from left to right. Allow the person to blink.
  3. If you can see the foreign body and it is not embedded or touching the coloured part of the eye, gently wash it out. Tilt the head to one side and run water through the eye, holding the eyelid open. Continue with this treatment for up to 30 minutes, allowing the person to blink regularly.
  4. If washing does not work and the object is not embedded in the eye, try to remove it with a moist piece of clean material.
  5. If you remain unable to remove the object take or send the person to hospital.

Swallowed objects

Signs and symptoms of a swallowed object

  • Ask the child or bystanders what happened, and look for other small objects around the child
  • Stomach pain

First Aid Treatment

If the object was very large, sharp or potentially poisonous (for example some kinds of battery), call an ambulance. If the object was small and smooth, take the child to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible.

Inhaled objects

It is possible for small and smooth objects to be inhaled into the lungs. This may cause difficulty breathing, particularly if the objects are porous and swell up on contact with body fluids. Small nuts are a particular risk, with the added concern that some people have a severe allergic reaction to them.

Signs and symptoms of an inhaled object

  • Choking noises which pass as the object moves into the lung
  • Hacking cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Ask bystanders what happened and look around for evidence of bags of nuts, sweets etc

First Aid Treatment

  1. If the person is unable to take a breath, treat her for choking if necessary, encouraging coughing, giving back slaps, chest thrusts, then abdominal thrusts.
  2. Call an ambulance as soon as possible and monitor breathing while waiting.
  3. Reassure the person and try to find out exactly what was inhaled.


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