If you’ve spent time with babies and youngsters, you know they tend to stick everything in their mouths—or even noses! This is part of how they explore and learn, but it’s nothing to sneeze at (pun intended). Certain items can be dangerous or toxic. Plus, kids might do the darnedest things, but adolescents and adults (of all ages) manage to do some equally impressive nose dives, whether it’s during times of stress, accidentally or as the result of a dare (e.g., snorting wasabi paste!).
Some common items that may find their way into the nose include beads, marbles, raisins, Legos, food, coins, Barbie shoes and small game pieces, to name a few. These items can obstruct the airway and/or cause an infection. Over the years, IPC has handled many cases in which young children ended up with a potentially toxic item or substance in their nose. Here are a few examples:
- High powered mini-magnets (pea-sized magnets)
Magnets in the nose can cause serious damage, especially if there’s more than one magnet on each side of the septum (the wall between the nostrils that separates the nasal passages). This can result in tissue death and a magnet-shaped hole right in the septum. LiveScience reported on a case like this in 2017. Here’s another recent case involving a child who swallowed 27 magnets!
(Source: youtube.com Playing with big magnet balls)
- Button batteries:
Button batteries can be found in musical greeting cards, toys, light-up jewelry, older remotes, watches, hearing aids, etc. If embedded in the nose, they can be hazardous because they can generate a chemical reaction over the contact surface. If not treated early, cases like this could result in complications like bleeding, infection and damage to the soft tissue and cartilage. Case in point: A 5-year-old with a button battery lodged in her nose required surgical removal and antibiotics to treat an infection that developed as a result of the exposure.
- Pills (medicines):
Some pills can have a bitter/irritating taste, so they have a coating to hide that taste. If this coating dissolves in the nasal passage(s) it can be painful and cause a lot of nasal discharge. This situation can become even more problematic if/when the pills get pushed all the way up the nasal passageway and end up in the stomach as if they were swallowed. This can also cause mucosal absorption, where the drug dissolves into your mucosal tissue. This case is dangerous on two fronts: the foreign body in the nose, and actual toxicity from the pills.
TEENS AND ADULTS:
People sometimes mix cleaners in a container or bucket. Other times, they clean a surface using one product and then use a second product for extra cleanliness. Either approach can lead to chemical reactions that produce fumes, e.g. bleach and acid-based cleaning products like toilet bowl cleaners and drain openers. Bleach combined with an acid creates chlorine gas which is a very strong respiratory irritant. Bleach mixed with ammonia makes chloramine gas, which is another noxious, irritating gas.
- Super Glue:
So many cases, so little time to discuss—but this one is worth mentioning: Someone accidentally super glued their finger in their nose after working with this ultra sticky glue. Rough removal of the finger could lead to mechanical injury of the mucosal layer, which can be very painful. In this case, we recommended an ER visit so doctors could loosen the glue and prevent injury and infection to the nose.
- Neti Pot:
The Neti Pot or sinus rinse is a common/easy way to rinse debris or mucus from your nasal cavity to prevent or treat symptoms of nasal allergies, sinus problems or colds. Unfortunately, a couple of congested adults (first-time users), accidentally grabbed a plastic container of distilled vinegar instead of distilled water from the basement and proceeded to use it…ouch! It was a very uncomfortable experience.
Note: When using any kind of sinus rinse, always use “distilled” water (purchased at the store) or boiled tap water to prevent infection by brain-eating amoebas. Learn more here.
- Automotive products:
Unfortunately, this happens more than you might think: People get a face and nose full of fluids when working under a vehicle (transmission fluid, brake fluid, radiator fluid, oil, coolant, powers steering fluid, etc.). Often times these products contain hydrocarbons which can irritate the skin. Sometimes fluids are heated and can cause burns (such as radiator fluid). ince the nasal cavity is so difficult to irrigate, patients may be at risk of developing delayed symptoms such as severe drying, cracking or even burns. Some of the fluids have an antifreeze in them (methanol or ethylene glycol) and are extremely toxic if ingested.
To prevent these or similar issues from happening to you and the ones you love, we encourage you to always:
- Keep high-powered mini-magnets and button batteries out of the reach of children, and remove them from remotes, toys, musical cards or anything that small children gravitate to;
- Read the label of any product/substance closely before using it—turn on a light and wear glasses when necessary;
- If using multiple inhaled medications (prescription and/or over-the-counter), take into account the accumulative dose of ingredients;
- Carefully read and follow instructions for any medicine or product;
- Store medicines, supplements and vitamins in their original childproof containers—high and out of reach/sight of children (and tell others to do the same); and
- Before accepting a dare…take a moment to consider if it’s worth the price (humiliation, pain, ER visit, surgery or worse)!
MOST OF ALL, DON’T PANIC!
If something happens, don’t hesitate to call IPC’s free, confidential 24/7/365 expert helpline at 800-222-1222. To save this number to your phone(s), text: 797979. No question or issue is too big or too small (or too embarrassing). Just call! Click here to request a free Complimentary Safety Packet (with sticker, magnet and first aid tips) and/or free online Poison Prevention Education Course and Resources (available in both English and Spanish for all ages; free Continuing Education Credit-CEC available).
In the next edition of this blog series, we’ll talk about the things people put on their skin, resulting in unexpected and/or undesirable affects!
Vickie, Erin and Matt
P.S. Got an experience to share or want to hear more about? Leave us a comment below and/or email us at IPCadmin@team-iha.org!