Kids put objects up their nose. For the luckiest parents, the object is as benign as a finger. For the less lucky, a child might jam a raisin or two into their nostril, or maybe even a marble, or a crayon. Once those objects are stuck, the process of getting them unstuck may often require medical paraphernalia like tweezers or clamps and forceps. But the more resourceful can try what’s called the “mother’s kiss,” a manual method of removing an object from a kid’s nostril, which requires a parent seal their mouth, over their kid’s mouth and blow. Weirdly, it works. It works really well, in fact.
Pediatrician Dr. Lisa Lewis, author of Feed the Baby Hummus: Pediatrician-Backed Secrets from Cultures Around the World is happy to explain the strange details. “Basically, the technique is that the parent plugs the nostril that isn’t blocked with their finger,” she begins. “Then the parent puts their mouth over the child’s mouth and give a sharp exhalation. And then the object will actually come out of the nose.”
How to Perform the Mothers Kiss
- Close the unaffected nostril with a finger
- Place your mouth over the child’s mouth
- Blow sharply to dislodge the object in the affected nostril
- Wait to feel the object hit your face
Lewis notes that when the procedure is less successful, the object in the nose will usually move enough that it can at least be pulled free. She also says that given the less invasive nature of the procedure, it’s less likely that a kid’s nose will get bloodied as parents and doctors root around with tools to pull a foreign object free.
But how does this work? It would seem that if a parent blew a breath into a kid’s mouth then it would go to their lungs. But that’s not the case. When a parent makes the sharp exhale the child’s epiglottis closes their airway forcing the breath into the nostrils. With the free nostril blocked by the parent, the air has only one way to go — into the nostril with the object and, with any luck, force the object out.
Lewis notes that there is a Canadian study that wanted to get to the bottom of whether or not the mother’s kiss actually worked. That study showed that when the mother’s kiss was performed on children 1- to 8-years-old, it worked in over 50 percent of cases and the complication risk was very low.
“Even though it’s been well studied, it’s not always well received by every pediatrician or doctor,” Lewis explains. “We recommend that we supervise it. What we worry about is that if the parent accidentally inhales the object could get lodged deeper and become a choking hazard.”
Interestingly, the mother’s kiss can sometimes be performed without the actual kiss part. If a child is crying, upset and breathing heavy because there’s something up their nose. It may be enough to close the unaffected nostril and then use the kid’s natural sobbing do the work to blow the offending object out.
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Letting the kid blow the object out themselves is also nice because the parents face does not need to be in direct contact when the object is ejected from the nostril. Because chances are very good, whatever the object is will be covered in snot and land on the parent’s cheek.
It’s also important to note the mother’s kiss method is not for plain old stuffed up noses due to cold or flu. It makes it far too easy for viruses to be passed from kid to parent.
Happily, the method is dead simple. If you have the guts to do it, it’s worth a shot.