What is it?

Children are curious. Sometimes this can lead them to stick objects in their ears, nose, and mouth. In hospitals, these are called foreign bodies. Food, insects, crayons, buttons, toys, and various other small objects can often be shoved in places where they do not belong. This is most common in children under five years old.

How is it treated?

Many times, especially in cases involving the ears and nose, the removal of a foreign object doesn't require surgery. A doctor can use various instruments to dig or pull out the object, including magnets or a suction machine.

If something is lodged in your child's windpipe, the situation is dangerous because the object can block your child from breathing. If your child can't breathe properly, call 911 immediately. Depending on your child's situation, your care provider may determine that surgery is needed, such as an endoscopy (PDF).

If your child has swallowed a foreign body, the object sometimes will pass through your child's system by itself, though you should always call or visit your doctor to help assess your unique situation. Dangerous items are sharp objects, like toothpicks or nails, and tiny "disc" batteries, such as those in hearing aids or watches. These small batteries are especially dangerous because they can erode the linings of the gastrointestinal tract. If your child has swallowed or been exposed to a poisonous substance, call 911 or Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

About surgery for foreign body removal at Children's

Surgeries and procedures to remove a foreign body are commonly performed at Children's. The procedures typically are performed by pediatric gastroenterologists or pediatric general surgeons, depending on the unique needs of your child. The gastroenterology team at Children's provides next-generation care to neonatal infants, newborns, children, and adolescents from throughout the Upper Midwest and consistently performs some of the most cutting-edge surgical procedures available, including newborn surgery, laparoscopic and other minimally invasive surgeries, and robotic surgery, when appropriate. Surgery to remove a foreign body is performed at Children's - Minneapolis and Children's - St. Paul.

Contact us

  • If you are a family member looking for a Children's specialist in general surgery or gastroenterology, please visit Find a Doctor.

  • If you are a health professional looking for a consultation or referral information, please call Children's Physician Access at 1-866-755-2121 (toll-free).