Are Q-tips the “Gateway Drug” to placing foreign bodies in the ear?


Today was a day filled with ear foreign bodies. Some days there are none, other days there are more than one. Today was the more than one day. It started with this great little 5 year old boy who came with his very calm and relaxed Mom. Apparently, the first physician that he saw for the left ear foreign body tried to remove it by putting a dab of Super Glue on a stick and allowing the stick to adhere to the foreign body… it didn’t work. It did, though, make for a really anxious boy. When he came to my office, he was noticeably upset and slightly unwilling to undergo another attempt at removal. After some light-hearted banter, he let me recline the chair, turn on the microscope and put a funnel-shaped instrument (called a speculum) into his ear. speculum After the speculum was in (with only a tiny bit of wincing), I saw a brownish-gray foreign body. It was hard, so it couldn’t be grasped. So, I used a right angled hook to get behind the object and gently pull it out. It was not the most comfortable thing that he has endured, but he handled it like a champ. After that pebble was removed, I saw a second one and removed it the same way as the first. Finally, I peered down the long corridor (ear canal) and saw something else… A THIRD PEBBLE RIGHT NEXT TO THE EAR DRUM! As gentle as I tried, the brave child had a really hard time tolerating the removal of the last object. I stopped and left it in the ear canal because if he moved while I was trying to remove it, his eardrum – or even worse the little bones of hearing on the other side of the ear drum, could be injured. So I prescribed some antibiotic ear drops and will see him next week. Hopefully, the ear canal’s gentle grip on the third rock will loosen… rocks from ears-2 My thoughts about Q-tips being the Gateway drug are these: Since so many parents try to “clean” their kid’s ears with Q-tips, kids will progress on to the harder “drugs” (foreign bodies) since they have been shown that one foreign body (the Q-tip) is “safe” to put into the ear; WHICH IT IS NOT!

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