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article imageMan develops brain infection after using cotton ear swabs

By Tim Sandle     Mar 22, 2019 in Health
London - A new warning has been raised about the use of cotton ear swabs (or 'earbuds'), used to clean out ears and dislodge earwax, after a man developed an infection after using ear buds. A portion of cotton became dislodged in the ear.
The man, aged 31, was sent to hospital after developing an infection in his ear that transgressed to the lining of his skull. This resulted in a series of seizures, causing the man to collapse.
The British male required surgery (a cortical mastoidectomy) to correct the infection, followed by intravenous antibiotics, and several weeks of recuperation. The cause was traced to a fragment of cotton from a cotton earbud (like a Q-tip), sold commercially to cleanse ears. According to Laboratory Roots, medics suspect that a portion of cotton, which is woven around a plastic applicator, came off as the ear swab was being used.
The infection was a combination of necrotising otitis externa and subdural abscess, as reported by the British Medical Journal (see: “Cotton bud in external ear canal causing necrotising otitis externa and subdural abscess.”)
Necrotising otitis externa is an uncommon form of external otitis (inflammation of the ear canal) starts as as infection of the external ear canal. After this there is an extension of the infection into the bony ear canal and the soft tissues deep to the bony canal. If it is unrecognized and left untreated, it may result in death. In many cases infection is associated with the microorganism Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Subdural empyema (or, abscess) refers to an intracranial (brain-skull) focal collection of purulent material, located between the dura mater and the arachnoid mater. The presence of this matter can result in an infection. In this case, the abscess was detected by a computerized tomography scan.
Commenting on the incident, medical experts at the Mayo Clinic have issued a reminder to people that earwax serves an important function. Earwax traps dirt and bacteria and lubricates the ear canal. Therefore, a level of earwax is good. Where there is too much earwax, then drops (glycerine or hydrogen peroxide) should be used to loosen up earwax. The earwax should then be allowed to leave the ear naturally and the use of swabs should be avoided.
Mayo Clinic further advises that, as a general rule, cotton swabs are not recommended for cleaning ears, and, for most people, ears do not need to be cleaned.
More about Ear buds, ear swabs, ear cleaners, Ears, Infection
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