Man gets deadly infection in skull after cleaning ears with cotton swab


Talk about getting an earful.

A British man contracted a “potentially life-threatening” bacterial infection in the lining of his skull after he used a cotton swab to clean his ear.

A piece of the cotton got stuck in the 31-year-old man’s ear canal, made its way up his skull and reached the lining of his brain, causing neurological symptoms like seizures. He was then taken to the emergency room after he collapsed, reports Live Science.

Dr. Alexander Charlton, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the University Hospital Coventry in England who treated the man, told Live Science that the man’s seizures could be linked to the bacterial infection causing toxins or brain pressure.

The man underwent a CT scan and was diagnosed with “necrotizing otitis externa,” a bacterial infection in the auditory canal. He was able to undergo a minor surgery, where doctors were able to locate and remove the cotton swab.

But the man had to spend about a week in hospital and had to take two months of antibiotics to kill the infection. Thankfully he had no long-term brain or auditory problems. The extraordinary case was published in medical journal BMJ Case Reports.

The lucky patient has now been ordered to swear off using cotton swabs for his ears again.

“They can only cause problems,” Charlton said.