Vacuum removal of object stuck in child's nose

My kids seem to have this issue with sticking things in their noses. It's kind of scary at first, but it's not life-threatening. Here are some common methods used for removing an object stuck in the nose:
  • Plug the opposite nostril, close mouth, and blow out the nostril that has the foreign object in it
  • Induce a sneeze to more forcefully blow it out (with pepper or some other method that works)
  • Delicately grab the object with tweezers (but don't make things worse by shoving it in further)
Unfortunately, if your child jams something way up into his nose or just won't sit still enough, these methods might not work. You may need to go to a doctor, and possibly to an ear, nose and throat specialist. Smaller kids can be physically restrained well enough so the doctor can work, but often bigger kids cannot. At worst, if your child can't remain still enough he may need to be sedated so the doctor can get in there with his or her tools to get whatever it is, out.

Recently, our two year-old stuck a Lego man's arm into his nose. We tried all the regular methods as best we could (with a squirmy, crying child), with no luck. I decided to try something new and perhaps save a lot of trauma, time, and money. I got out the shop vacuum, and with a quick nozzle modification, we sucked that Lego man's arm out of my kid's nose lickety-split!

Now, be sure to read ALL the steps before you condemn me as a terrible, irresponsible parent.... and if you ever try something like this... blah, blah, blah, use common sense, blah, blah, blah.

Paso 1: Get the vacuum

My shop vacuum was handy, so that's what I used.

Paso 2: Modify the nozzle at the end of the hose

I taped the tube section of a Bic-style pen into the nozzle opening, making sure to tape it well enough to seal up the end of the nozzle so all the suction was focused at the tip of the pen.
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cdstudioNH dice: Sep 15, 2014. 7:54 PM

I did it! And I entered it into the Remix contest, naturally. : D

cdstudioNH dice: Sep 5, 2014. 6 PM

This is one of my faves. I feel a remix coming on....

jeffery.m.silva dice: Sep 3, 2014. 10:19 AM

OMG Parents don't do this! It sucked all the lungs and guts out of my kid... just kidding, it worked great. Thanks! I opted to use a straw with the flexible end. I think it is funny those people who think this is extremely dangerous... is that what they think is going to happen... your going to collapse a lung or something? Please remember the kids also have a mouth and other nostril... air will be sucked from those places not the lungs for crying out loud. For those of you think you are putting high powered suction in delicate places, here is a little law of physics... the smaller passage way acts as an inhibitor to the amount of air going through the passage way, hence limiting the force of the suction. In other words it is just barely the right amount of suction to do the job. If you have an air tight vacuum then it is possible to create higher velocity suctions, but clearly that would not be the best idea. I found using the straw is a great idea because it is extra flexible and should the air flow increase too much the straw would collapse on itself and it made it easier to navigate.

seamster dice: Sep 3, 2014. 10:28 AM
Nice, thank you for the thoughtful comment.

At first glance I was thinking "oh great, another one of these!" I was pleasantly surprised as I continued reading. Glad it worked well for you! I love the straw idea, I'll do that if we ever have to employ this method again.
henryd106 dice: Jul 9, 2014. 3:10 PM
Hey, seamster! We made this before we even saw your instrucable, which is amazing by the way, except we used it to clean that annoying dust stuff from a puzzle! Tip for puzzlers, just place the tiny nozzle on top of your puzzle, no pieces lost!
clawrence13 dice: Feb 23, 2014. 12:17 AM
Awsome!! My type of dad.
sonyadaily dice: Ene 16, 2014. 3:33 PM

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! You saved us a trip to the Doctor and a lot of worry. My son stuck a piece of foam cushioning into his nose. It was black and we couldn't even figure out if the event had happened or not.We tried pepper & blowing, but landed up sleeping on it coz I was pretty sure it was not there. After he he woke in the night with the definitely blocked right nostril we spent a sleepless night ans I tried this first thing in the morning before taking him to the doctor. Once I demonstrated it on my own nose, he sat quietly and let me try it on him. 5 min later I see a ball of snot with this round black thing popping out!! I'm filing this under worked and must know for parents. Hopefully I won't have to use this again. Thanks a bunch!

seamster dice: Ene 16, 2014. 4:09 PM

Awesome! I'm glad it worked for you and your son is okay.

parisusa dice: Sep 15, 2013. 7:57 PM
Great idea...I don't believe it's dangerous...a vacuum won't suck the brains out of someone! For centuries+ humans lived without Emergency Rooms & hundreds of dollars in insurance co-payments. I brought my son to the ER for a broken piece of toy cheese stuck in his ear! Wish I'd seen this first!
aacreech dice: Feb 14, 2013. 3:45 PM
I am so grateful for you. My niece had a small foam ball from a bean bag chair. At first she came in to the room and thought she had a buggy. So her dad tried to remove it, sure enough there was one in her nose but it wasn't what was bothering her. So when she kept crying like it was bothering her my sister took her to the bathroom to get a closer look. And you could see the ball. So immediately my sister wanted to jump up and start getting ready to go to the ER. But first she wanted to calm my niece, because it wasn't blocking anything she just went off our panic and the fact that something was in her nose and she couldn't get it out. So while she was being calmed I Googled a question. I saw your answer and I told my sister we should try this. So we did just what you said and the ball came right out. I am glad that you chose to share your your story because my niece is happy and items are free from her nose (for now anyway) and we didn't have to go the hospital. Thank you so much!!!
seamster dice: Feb 15, 2013. 9:10 AM
I'm glad it worked for you!
Reivenne dice: Feb 6, 2013. 10:54 PM
...This is just plain dangerous. I don't care that it "worked for you" or you "tried it up against your own nose"... You're putting a high suction device near your child's extremely delicate nasal cavity and eyes. THINK, PEOPLE.
seamster dice: Feb 7, 2013. 2:21 AM
You don't have any kids, do you?
Mario2007 dice: Sep 11, 2014. 8:37 AM
That's rather rude.
twilight21 dice: Dic 9, 2012. 1:06 AM
my Lil sis got a bead stuck in her nose and  the way i got it out is by pressing on her nose and it poped out
christopher+eccles+cake dice: Sep 25, 2012. 8:41 AM
once when i was a baby i jammed a bead up my nose, my parents got it out, as the doctor recommended, by closing the other nostril and blowing through my mouth.
seamster dice: Sep 25, 2012. 10:02 AM
Yep, that works sometimes.
WithLittleBrain dice: Sep 11, 2012. 10:42 PM
My almost 3 year old son got a button stuck up his nose this evening - beyond sight and the reach of tweezers - and I thought of the same technique without any research on the issue. I grabbed the vacuum and tested it on my own nose and without modifications, put it to his nose. He had his mouth open and I gently and sporadically blocked his other nostril. There was enough air-flow/suction with the wide opening of the nozzle that it was not uncomfortable for him - his open mouth probably helped as well. His eyes were watering, but he was smiling and enjoying the sensation of the air being sucked out his nose! I remained calm which reassured him all was fine, and the button suddenly appeared at the opening of his nose. I gently pinched his nostril closed and the button was squeezed out. I would try it again to avoid the trauma of a hospital visit.
seamster dice: Sep 12, 2012. 4:02 PM
Nice work, glad to know it came out without too much trouble. This post has gotten some heat from a few people, but I'm pretty sure none of those commenters had kids or had ever received a crazy hospital bill...

Thanks for the comment!
pressiveinst dice: Jul 14, 2012. 5:29 AM
Wow! I will say this only once... THIS IS DANGEROUS!!! DON'T EVER TRY THIS! EVER!! Your nose cavity is super fragile!! You can hurt your child very hard with this!!! I REPEAT!! DON'T TRY THIS!!!
seamster dice: Jul 14, 2012. 10:52 PM
Too late!
parentagain dice: Nov 5, 2011. 9:36 PM
11 YR put air-soft bb up nose. Tried to get it out with Q-tip and pushed it up higher. Tried to blow through the one nostrial, air would go through but bb would not budge. I read this column and tried it by getting a large diameter flexable straw fitted to the shop vac. Tested on me first. Had 11YR plug other nostrial and blow hard while held straw to just inside opening of bb nostrial..
Third hard blow and thump, we heard it go through the straw; it came out. Saved me a $100 co pay and spending all night at the ER.
I was lucky -- this as last resort before the ER.
seamster dice: Nov 6, 2011. 7:31 AM
I'm glad it worked for you!
christopher+eccles+cake dice: Sep 26, 2012. 5:50 AM
i'm from England and find the idea of it saving you money odd (NHS FTW)
pfallon dice: Oct 28, 2011. 11:56 PM
i just tried this - worked a treat - took 2 goes the booglie eye (the offending object) moved a little on its own so it came out with ease the second time.

obviously use the vacuum on low setting and try on parent first..
seamster dice: Oct 29, 2011. 10:04 AM
Very good! I'm happy it worked for you, and saved a trip to the doctor.
jcastro14 dice: Ago 30, 2011. 7:55 PM
AS A LAST RESORT!!! An Er visit, and two trip to the ear, nose and throat specialist!!!! This might have just saved us a trip to the dang pediatric surgery unit! I am keeping my fingers crossed while we create our nozzle! I'll let you know!
seamster dice: Ago 31, 2011. 11:24 AM
Woa now, wait a minute...

Are you saying you ALREADY went to multiple doctors, and they didn't solve your problem? If that's the case, please don't try this. This will only work on a loosely stuck item, close to the nostril opening. For anything more serious, please just go back to the doctor.
toughgurrillas dice: Jun 3, 2011. 3:09 PM
wth??? haha YUCKIE PANTS!!!!!
ellaclay dice: Abr 12, 2011. 8:29 PM
I wish I had known this while on vacation in New Orleans, my daughter stuck a broken hair clip piece up her nose and I franticly rushed her to the emergency room only to find out that it fell out before we left the hotel room. I will remember this for when my next kid does it. Genius!
popoamanda06 dice: Mar 24, 2011. 6:24 PM
I love this idea! I much rather use your method then take my child to the doctors. I just can't bare watching my child suffer more pain at the ER again while they run "test" to make sure "nothing else is wrong". Lesson Learned.. Listen to Mommy Instincts.
seamster dice: Mar 24, 2011. 9:37 PM
Thanks! This won't work in all situations of course, but in simple cases like the one I had with my kid, it can be a useful trick. ...And that's right, listen to those mommy instincts!
shepnstein dice: Jul 14, 2010. 10:07 AM
I found an easy way to induce a sneeze is to pluck a nose hair out with a tweezers.
H1T4TCH1 dice: Jul 2, 2010. 12:20 PM
My dad putted the vacuum cleaner on my sisters nose without any other mods, only a pen on the end of the suction thing ;) xD
weiblen.c dice: Jul 2, 2010. 10:09 AM
Thanks for sharing the Instructable!

Parents can choose to set an example, to teach their kids to be self-sufficient and handle life's little problems with ingenuity and cautious confidence, like you are doing.

Or, they can teach their kids to be dependent on others and to go haring off to the hospital in EMERGENCY mode for every little thing that happens to them in the course of a normal childhood.

It's amazing how many kids cram things up their nose.  Reasons?  I don't believe they ever have or need a reason. It's nice that the experience can sometimes be changed from a scary ER trip into just another thing that happened today, by using a simple vacuum and a pen.

I also think it's great that other parents have chimed in with alternative methods to try. I heart the Instructables community.
izzyinsf dice: Jun 23, 2010. 1:30 PM
ha! the "memorial hospital" pen is a nice touch.
phredrik dice: May 26, 2010. 8:33 AM
Step 1: Make child smell pepper
Step 2: Wait for sneeze.

Works well, have done it in the past, when my wife did daycare. Although I do enjoy the extra effort that this involves.
twocvbloke dice: May 15, 2010. 2:55 PM
I wouldn't like to try this with pretty much any vacuum cleaner, it's safer to take a child to a doctor who has the training to do such things...

for anything not related to human (or animal) orifices, then it's a good idea, though if you had a Kirby, you already get an Inflater/deflater tool which can do this job... :)
seamster dice: May 15, 2010. 3:22 PM
I don't know... you might change your tune after watching doctors do much more intrusive things, and having to pay a ton of money each time you take you kid in for something you could easily remedy yourself.

However, there are times that really are serious emergencies where doctors are the obvious best bet, and certain "object in the nose" cases fit this category. Likewise there are plenty of times that a generally intelligent person can perform minor procedures at home without rushing off to the hospital. 

twocvbloke dice: May 15, 2010. 4:15 PM
I guess that's where living here in the UK has it's advantages, cos with the NHS, you don't pay for a doctor to do a professional job, so there's less risk to the child in question... :)

I can just imagine someone trying this with something like a Tristar, and bursting several bloodvessels in the nasal cavity, and a trip to the hospital to stem the bleeding and stitch up the damage... :)

Not wanting to be too negative, but there are really dumb people out there who will just use a vacuum on full blast to do something like this, so yeah, it's an "At your own risk" kind of thing... :)
seamster dice: May 15, 2010. 7:43 PM
There are indeed a lot of dumb people in the world.
elvisisdead dice: Abr 11, 2010. 5:52 PM
 You, sir, are a Dad that other Dads should be proud of and look up to. Creative on the spot thinking. I like it! 
seamster dice: Abr 11, 2010. 8:54 PM

melissa_0785 dice: Abr 1, 2010. 1:34 PM
last month some how my 2yrs old got a band aid stuck up her nose. i used the tweezers, and i was so scared she was gonna move, and make things worst. i wish i new about the whole vaccum bit thing then!
chuckr44 dice: Mar 22, 2010. 11:42 AM
Thank you for this I'ble! I have been wondering how to clean the circuit boards of my furnace, and I can't find the small attachments for vacuums in the stores anymore.

Also, this reminded me when my son stuck 2 peas in the same nostril. I had to teach him to blow hard after he inhaled, while I plugged the other nostril.

jlc673 dice: Mar 21, 2010. 10:31 PM
I learned this in the ER and the co-payment was $50:
un-popped popcorn kernel was stuck in my toddler's nose. The ER doc said he had a suction device or forceps, but first he had me close the other nostril, cover the child's mouth with my mouth and puff a breath into the toddler's mouth.
It popped right out! It was the easiest thing I ever saw!
Yomiko dice: Mar 19, 2010. 5:17 PM
I find it interesting that so many people freak out over the idea of suction being used, but guess what the ER uses... suction!
My daughter (about 5 years old at the time) squished down a foam bead and shoved it up her nose. I tried making her blow, tweezers, pushing down on her nostril, nothing worked (I didn't know about the plug-and-blow method!). Children's ER tried the same things, had one person pushing it down, having her blow AND suction to finally get it out! The resident helping asked her why she shoved it up her nose. She looked at him and with a completely serious face, responded "because I tried to put it in my ear but it wouldn't fit!"
seamster dice: Mar 19, 2010. 6:23 PM
My wife and I both laughed out loud when we read your daughter's response. That's pretty funny stuff.

I'm certain that most people who complain about stuff like this don't have real children. (They most likely have chihuahuas in little sweaters that they carry around in giant purses.)
Nikongirl dice: Mar 15, 2010. 12:26 AM
My step brother's ex wife was an EMT for awhile and when my daughter was 3 and stuck a Cheerio in her nose my dad had tried a plastic crochet hook to grab it but she breathed it in but no harm was done.  Later my step mom had asked her(my step brothers wife at time) what we should have done.

She said plug the non-blocked nostril and blow through the mouth.  When my curious little explorer later put a raisin in her nose at 3 I knew exactly what to do and it worked like a charm.  No scary hospital needed.
Nikongirl dice: Mar 15, 2010. 12:27 AM
opps should be 2 when she did the Cherrio she as 2 years 3 months.
Thendongofti dice: Mar 7, 2010. 2:30 PM
Great idea! My son (6 months old) recently had to have his snot tested to identify a virus, and they used what was basically a bic biro -type device with strong suction- but inserted really high up his nose- to suck a load of mucous out. So so much for the hospital being careful of the delicate nasal lining.... As a kid, I used to have frequent nosebleeds and often had them 'packed' at A & E- loads of gauze rammed up the nose with forceps- I'm sure that caused far more nasal trauma than sucking out a lost small toy with a Hoover!!
alweek dice: Mar 4, 2010. 2:22 AM
great idea.  only suggestion is to cut a large-ish hole in the side of the pen which you block with your finger and can control the amount of vacuum.  if you hit flesh, just unblock the side hole and it doesn't do too much damage to the kid.

will file this away in the back of my head in case i need it in the future.  Thank you!
Redgerr dice: Mar 4, 2010. 5:44 AM
yeah, was thinking the same thing... could be bad if it did suction some skin
Karletto555 dice: Mar 3, 2010. 9:33 PM
FrozenStar dice: Mar 3, 2010. 6:34 PM
Unless you are 100% sure you know what you are doing this seems unsafe as you could cause damage to the kid's nose quite easily.
bassclarinet23 dice: Mar 3, 2010. 6:21 PM
I just want to know, is it safe? Will you suck the kid's brain out?
neurothing dice: Mar 3, 2010. 3:02 PM
This is a very dangerous idea.  Even if the object is completely rounded, the low pressure can easily damage the mucous membranes and cause severe bleeding and/or deformation of the nasal cartilage.  If the object has any edges or protrusions at all (such as the mentioned lego man's arm, you can cause severe tearing of the nasal mucosa.  This posting should be removed.
seamster dice: Mar 3, 2010. 10:09 PM
Did you read this instructable very carefully? I didn't even insert the nozzle into his nose, for Pete's sake. I held it outside of his nostril, and the Lego arm popped out. (Now I will clarify, as I didn't state it clearly in the introduction, we could see the thing in his nose and it wasn't very far up. He wouldn't blow it out, and we couldn't get him to sit still well enough for any effective tweezing, hence the vacuum.) 

Concerning damage to various parts of the nose, my older child got a plastic BB stuck in his nose and I watched two separate doctors try to fish it out with various metal instruments, which appeared FAR more intrusive than a little carefully placed suction. 

And what, if any, credentials do you have to back your statements? I think common sense reigns, and obviously if you go ramming a hose nozzle into your kid's nose, it probably won't end well. I'm curious to hear what an otolaryngologist would say.
limonchi dice: Mar 5, 2010. 1:37 PM
canida dice: Mar 3, 2010. 2:46 PM
I'm filing this one for future (careful) use!  Those little sucker bulbs hardly work for snot, much less foreign objects. Better to have extra sucking power you can then modulate for proper retrieval. ;)

Nice job!
seamster dice: Mar 3, 2010. 10:13 PM
sjlindau dice: Mar 3, 2010. 12:55 PM
This is a recipe for disaster!
Never apply a vacuum to any bodily orifice.
Totally irresponsible.
Please don't experiment with your child's well being.
Any doctors out there who can chime in?
limonchi dice: Mar 3, 2010. 11:03 AM
Be carefully with this, too much vacuum pressure will damage their little lungs.
For safety and protection don´t close the other hole of the nose. Don´t use it on ears, you will damage the tympanum.
Better is using specific instrumental an magnifying glass, if you are capable to see the object
sorry about my english

limonchi dice: Mar 3, 2010. 11:06 AM
I forget to say:
apply intermitent vacuum, not continuous
carlos66ba dice: Mar 3, 2010. 10:50 AM
Good work, dad!  Note:  some vacuum cleaners do have different strengths, recommend trying the lowest setting first.  BTW: the first photo is very cute.
pandyaketan dice: Mar 2, 2010. 9:32 PM
Just a thought - one could keep such a spare modified hose / nozzle ready all the time.

Better have it and not need it, than need it and not have any. Or wake up one day to making one for urself or for ur neighbours/relatives...

"May the good belong to all the people in the world.
May the rulers go by the path of justice.
May the best of men and their source always prove to be a blessing.
May all the world rejoice in happiness.
May rain come in time and plentifulness be on Earth.
May this world be free from suffering and the noble ones be free from fears"
---- Vedic blessing

MadBricoleur dice: Mar 2, 2010. 7:59 PM
LOL it is hilarious to see what was stuck in his nose.

if you posted this 6 years ago (approximately) it would have saved an entire day's worry when my sister had a tiny lemon stuck up there.
Musicman41 dice: Mar 2, 2010. 3:33 PM
I wonder if there is a way to modify a vacuum to have variable suction powers, so you only need to use as much suction as needed.
BeanGolem dice: Mar 2, 2010. 10:42 PM
 You could drill tiny little holes in the Bic-style pen and cover them up as needed.
Musicman41 dice: Mar 14, 2010. 2:52 PM
I was thinking along the lines of varying the voltage to the vacuum, but your idea could work too.  Its a lot simpler, thats for sure.
codongolev dice: Mar 2, 2010. 2:27 PM
I'd be terrified at this age to have a vacuum cleaner stuck up my nose. I can definitely understand the terror.

reminds me of the time when I got magnets stuck in my nostrils. I had to use other magnets to get them out.
jeff-o dice: Mar 2, 2010. 10:22 AM
Oh, why didn't you publish this two months ago?  My daughter stuck a plastic bead up her nose, and it took a trip to E.R. to get it out.  In the end, the doctor sprayed a numbing agent into her nose, then scooped it out with what was basically a tiny spoon.  My daughter was thrashing like a wild animal the whole time; it took quite a bit of strength (physical and emotional) to hold her down.  I'm glad it was me in there and not my wife; she would have been a wreck!

Hopefully I shall never have to use this instructable.  But I will surely remember it in case I do!
seamster dice: Mar 2, 2010. 10:48 AM
I agree--it's an awful, traumatic experience to have to hold your child down, even when it is or their own good!
RavingMadStudios dice: Mar 2, 2010. 11:42 AM
Feeling your pain. I had to hold down RavingChild a few years back so the ER doctor could remove a twig from his ear canal. It was horrible.
spooky1300 dice: Mar 2, 2010. 7:45 PM
 In the old days in Philippines, we don't use any vacuum, we just use our mouth to suck the thing out of the children nose, after all, they are your children, nothing to gross about.
seamster dice: Mar 2, 2010. 9 PM
That's true--that is another way to do it. We actually tried it with our oldest child when he stuck an airsoft BB in his nose about a year ago. But it didn't work. We eventually had to go to the hospital.
artquilter dice: Mar 8, 2010. 8:34 AM
Sometimes SOME children will be calmer when the parents are not in the room.
jeff-o dice: Mar 8, 2010. 8:58 AM
Not mine!  ;)
Nikongirl dice: Mar 15, 2010. 12:40 AM
Yes I was a wreck when my daughter was about 20 months old she fell on the pools entry step and smacked her chin on side of pool.  She hardly cried other than when held pressure on it.  But the it took 2 nurses and her dad to hold her down while the Dr. stitched her up with a whooping 25 stitches he estimated.  A ton for such a small tear that wasn't quite an inch even. LOL  I guess he thought she's a girl and face scars will make a huge difference to her.  But the point is yeah I'd rather not hold down a toddler that is screaming and crying.
scoochmaroo dice: Mar 2, 2010. 8:51 AM
I tried the tweezers once on a baby carrot wedged firmly up a toddler's nostril.  Too slippery!
Fortunately, the plug and blow method worked that time.  I don't think as a nanny, I would have had the proper leverage to convince the parents that a shop vac was a good idea. . . .
seamster dice: Mar 2, 2010. 9:38 AM
I can see how this might be a parents only type of operation!
russm313 dice: Mar 2, 2010. 5:59 AM
Way to go SuperDad!  I'm going to keep this one in the back of my mind... just might need it one day!
seamster dice: Mar 2, 2010. 7:33 AM
Thanks! This sure beat a trip to the hospital. It seems like such a stupid thing to have to see a doctor for.
mikeasaurus dice: Mar 1, 2010. 9:12 PM
nice adaptation, it's old school; ingenuity with a sprinkling of danger.