RedEye

Why do kids put things where they don't belong?

When my son decided to stick a Lego up his nose earlier this summer requiring a trip to the emergency room, a lot of questions swirled through my mind: Is this normal? Why did he do this? Should I ban Legos from the house?

Then in early August a boy in Utah made headlines for having a Lego wheel removed from his nose. Apparently it had been there for years, causing breathing and sleeping problems.

All this activity got me wondering — what's the deal with kids jamming stuff up their noses?

"This is how children investigate their environment," said Dr. Jonathan Powell, a pediatrician with Resurrection Medical Group in Chicago. "When they are babies, they stick everything in their mouth. As they get a little older, they try other places. It's very common."

Dr. Michael Pitt, the director of the Pediatric Convenient Care Clinic at Lurie's Children's Hospital of Chicago, said this happens most often in kids between the ages of one and six.

"I think there's a misconception that boys do this more than girls but that's not the case," Pitt said. "For items found in the ears, it's equal between girls and boys, but for the nose, it's 2 to 1 (ratio) girls."

The most common things found in the nose, Pitt said, are Barbie shoes. Other popular items, according to Pitt and Powell, include Legos, beads, seeds, coins and erasers. And Pitt said parents need to understand that some lodged items are more dangerous than others.

"Any time you get lead from older toys or a magnet inside the body, this can be very bad," Pitt said. "If you ingest more than one magnet they can connect and when they connect they break down your tissues. Also button batteries, which can be found in the older remotes, watches, or hearing aides — once they get inside you they start conducting so they can cause an electrical current."

Clinical psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo said while kids are "natural scientists," some might be putting things in their noses or ears for the laughs.

"They want to do what's funny, silly or naughty," Lombardo said. "Whether it's burps or gas, those things tend to make kids laugh — even if their mom isn't laughing — they learn they can get a laugh so it could be a form of getting attention."

The joking ends when the item can't be removed and the fear of punishment takes over, Lombardo said. This could mean something may go undetected until there are physical symptoms.

"Kids develop shame as much as adults do," Lombardo said. "Get their take on what has happened. If it was horrible and they are obviously traumatized, there's probably no need to give further punishment."

Here are some things to keep in mind if you think your child has put something where it doesn't belong:

Look for symptoms.

"If you notice your child's nose is only draining from one side and there's an odor, this is a problem," Powell said. "I had a boy who stuck a wad of paper up his nose, followed by a Lego and a thumb tack. The paper started to rot which caused the odor...He had to be operated on to remove everything."

Don't blame yourself.

"Is this strange? The answer is 'No,'" Pitt said. "If it becomes recurring behavior then it's something to worry about bit it's not a reflection on your parenting ability and it doesn't mean something is wrong with your child. It's really important to remember that."

"A child's brain isn't working in the same way an adult's brain is functioning," Lombardo said. "Young children are very present-oriented, focusing on the here and now rather than the future consequences."

Don't pretend you're an expert.

"If something is lodged in the nose, the first thing you can do is close their mouth and blow hard in the other nostril," Powell said. "Make sure they are sitting up and leaning forward. If that doesn't work, however, don't try anything else and get professional help immediately."

"Assume it's an emergency if you don't know what the item is that's gotten stuck," Pitt said. "A vast majority of the time the first line medical team can take care of it. You don't want to be taking out the tweezers and try to do this yourself. You could put it further up there and really make things worse."

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Aldermen looking to stop stores from getting around plastic bag ban

    Aldermen looking to stop stores from getting around plastic bag ban

    Chicago's ban on plastic bags starts to take effect at many big stores Saturday, but an alderman who helped craft the law already is talking about changing it in order to thwart a few large retail chains that he says are trying to skirt the new rules.

  • State police: Man shot while riding in van on Eisenhower

    State police: Man shot while riding in van on Eisenhower

    A man was shot multiple times while traveling in a minivan on the inbound Eisenhower Expressway on Friday morning, authorities said.

  • Lollapalooza liquor gardening: fact or fiction?

    Lollapalooza liquor gardening: fact or fiction?

    It may sound like an urban legend: Music festival-goers bury bottles of booze in Chicago parks, plot a GPS location for the goods and uncover them days later when the festival comes alive.

  • Chicago plans to cut O'Hare noise by rotating runways at night

    Chicago plans to cut O'Hare noise by rotating runways at night

    The Emanuel administration on Friday will propose an experiment at O'Hare International Airport to rotate the runways used late at night, possibly on a weekly basis, to spread out jet noise, the city's aviation chief told the Chicago Tribune.

  • Almost 6 acres of land added near Fullerton Avenue Beach

    Almost 6 acres of land added near Fullerton Avenue Beach

    Along Chicago's lakefront at Fullerton Avenue Beach, cranes rolled along a causeway that only a few months ago was part of the lake itself. Every day this summer, roughly 40 construction workers are filling in Lake Michigan with dredged material and gravel, which will eventually add up to 5.8 acres...

  • Doughnut panic

    Doughnut panic

    I'm not ashamed to admit that for the past several years, I have mapped my walk to work around which doughnut shop I'd like an excuse to stop at on the way. There's nothing like the thought of a crunchy, craggy old fashioned doughnut or the sweet, yeasty chew of a classic glazed doughnut to help...

Comments
Loading
86°