A tick crawled into a boy's inner ear while he was playing outside, and he needed surgery to remove it

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The tick doctors retrieved from the boy's ear canal.
The New England Journal of Medicine © 2019.
  • After a boy played outdoors at school, he started hearing buzzing noises and felt something in his right ear.
  • His doctor found that a tick had crawled into the boy's inner ear. The doctor tried to remove it in the office, but the boy ultimately needed surgery.
  • After taking a course of antibiotic ear drops, they boy was back to normal one month later and didn't have any permanent damage.
  • The ear canal's sensitivity typically allows people to notice and treat these types of problems quickly, according to Dr. David Kasle, one of the two physicians on the case.
  • For more stories go to Business Insider South Africa.

If you're spending time outside, beware: Ticks that typically latch onto a person's skin can also make their way into convenient openings in the body. After a 9-year-old boy spent time playing outdoors at school, he started to hear ringing noises and felt like something was stuck in his left ear, according to a case study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

His doctor found that a tick was stuck in the boy's eardrum and had attached itself to the top layer of his inner ear. The doctor tried to use a microscope tool to remove the tick, but was unsuccessful and ultimately had to send the boy to surgery.

Surgeons were able to use a hook and microscope to remove the tick, which they analysed and found to be the Dermacentor variabilis species, which is known to cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever in humans - a bacterial infection can be deadly if left untreated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Following surgery, doctors gave the boy a course of antibiotic ear drops for scratches the tick formed in his eardrum. At his one-month checkup, his eardrum appeared healed.

It's fairly common for bugs to crawl into human ears

Although a tick isn't the mostly likely type of creature to crawl into your ear, it's fairly common for bugs in general to get stuck in human ears, according to Dr. David Kasle, one of two physicians on the case.

Other doctors have reported retrieving moths, spiders, cockroaches, and other flying insects from patients' ears.

"I have not seen a report of a tick causing death or severe illness, though other reports of ticks on tympanic membranes [eardrums] certainly exist," he told INSIDER.

He said that foreign objects in the ear are usually quick to diagnose because of the ear canal's sensitive nature. "It allows for early recognition and treatment of ticks, which normally need longer times to transmit disease," Dr. Kasle said.

If you do think you have a bug in your ear, don't prod at it with a cotton swab or other object. If you or someone else can see the bug, you can grab it carefully with tweezers, according to the Mayo Clinic. Otherwise, try using warm mineral oil, olive oil, or baby oil to "float" the bug out of your ear.

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