Q-tips are something of a commodity in Haiti, so I frequently see Haitians using matches to scratch and clean inside their ear canals. That's a great idea, especially when the match breaks, leaving a chunk of flammable wood in there! We were very lucky to get this one out quickly and easily.
A toddler was brought to the school in Gonaives with an ear infection last week. One of the teachers cleaned out the pus and sent the child to me for meds. But the next day, the child's mother found me and started to tell me that her son had a bug in his ear. It sounds odd and a bit revolting, but I've actually heard of this before, where small roaches crawl into ears on cold nights to stay warm and then can't get out. So I cleaned all the pus out of the boy's ear again and took a good long look with my otoscope. There was nothing there.
I told mom that the bug must have already come out and I gave her some alcohol drops to put in the ear to dry out the water I'd used to flush the ear.
Ten minutes later, the woman was back. "I put the alcohol in his ear," she said. "And this came out." She was holding a maggot.
No longer odd and a bit revolting. This was completely and entirely revolting! And incredibly sad. I've dealt with maggots in open wounds before where you can see them and pick them out or cut away dead tissue to increase the chances of healing, but inside an ear? There's no way for me to work in there and unfortunately, the fact that I couldn't see the maggot when I examined the ear probably means that it has tunneled into the infected flesh. All we could do was put him on a stronger antibiotic, tell mom to continue the alcohol drops, and pray that there was only one maggot.
It was a rather squirmy sqeamish day in the clinic!