If you’re one of those people who insist on cleaning your ears with Q-Tips, one man’s run-in with a severe and potentially life-threatening infection in his scull may make you reconsider.
A 31-year-old man was brought to the hospital’s emergency department after collapsing.
Upon arriving, he experienced seizures, and physical examinations showed he was confused, drowsy, and in an altered state of consciousness.
Later, he revealed he had felt headaches and nausea for several days, during which time he struggled to remember names. He also admitted feeling intermittent left ear pain and hearing loss for the past 5 days.
When the doctors ran a CT scan on the man’s skull, they discovered pus-filled abscesses in the tissue surrounding the brain, and discharging from one of his ears revealed the culprit behind the infection: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a dangerous disease -causing pathogen.
But how did this nasty bacterium get inside the man’s scull?
Well, upon examination of the man’s ear canal, it was discovered that a fragment of cotton had been stuck in the man’s head for who knows how long-but possibly years.
Luckily for the patient, removal of the cotton bud and a huge amount of antibiotics delivered over the course of 8 weeks to treat his infection fixed the serious neurological problem he was experiencing.
After the completion of his treatment, the patient was well and had no residual ear symptoms.
Most importantly, he no longer used Q-Tips to clean his ears.
Nothing Smaller Than Your Elbow: Your Ear Canal is Self-cleaning!
I remember hearing “Don’t put anything in your ear bigger than your elbow” when I was a young boy living in Washington, D.C. The above saying makes more sense though.
Well, unlike many old wives tales, this one is actually true. Cleaning your ears this way can potentially cause damage to the middle ear system. And using Q-Tips , a hair pin or your house key to clean your ear canals might feel good or give you a sense of accomplishment but can actually cause earwax to become lodged in the far reaches of the ear canal, requiring removal by a doctor.
So, if my elbow doesn’t fit, what do I use to clean my ear canals?
Believe it or not, your ear canals are self-cleaning. Glands in the ear canal produce oil and earwax. These secretions are meant to coat the ear canal in order to prevent dryness, trap dirt and dust particles, and they act as a natural bug repellent, too. The secretions will gradually move out of the ear canal on their own. If, you must, you can use a home remedy of 50/50 mixture of warm water and white vinegar dropped gently into the ear canal with a bulb syringe.
Those who wear a hearing aid should have the ear canal checked regularly by their ear doctor (audiologist) to make sure excess wax doesn’t develop.
Over the years, I have tried to warn those close to me on Q-Tip usage, but, again, my Cassandra Curse comes into play. Would you believe that the gym I go to almost encourages Q-Tip usage by putting a few containers on top of the washbasin?
What can I say???
That’s it for now; see you all next time.