China - In a horrifying urban legend come true, a spider was discovered to have made a home in a Chinese woman's ear canal for five days before doctors extracted it.
Local news media reported that the woman, only identified as Ms Lee, went to Changsha Central Hospital of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery on August 8 complaining that her ear was itchy.
When Dr Liu Sheng shone a light down the woman's ear, he got a huge shock - there was a spider staring straight back at him.
The tiny spider had apparently crawled into her ear canal when she was asleep.
Doctors then decided to pour a saline solution into the canal to encourage the spider to crawl out of its own accord, rather than force it out.
According to the report, extracting the live spider would have resulted in the arachnoid digging its barbs deeper into her flesh and causing potential damage. Dr Liu said that the woman avoided harm by not inserting anything into her ear to scratch the itch.
However disgusting and incredible this might sound, it is certainly not the first time insects have made homes in human cavities.
Earlier this year, a young boy was rushed to hospital after a cockroach crawled into his ear while he was asleep and became stuck in the narrow canal.
The boy had been complaining about about a pain in his ear for about two days. After a check by doctors, a tiny baby cockroach was discovered scrambling about in his ear.
The doctor eventually used one per cent lidocane, an anesthetic, to drown the roach before extracting it.
In another bizzare case, a Colorado boy woke up screaming from his sleep when a moth crawled into his ear during the dead of night.
Doctors eventually pulled out the moth from 12-year-old Wade Scholte's ear - alive. They later placed it in a cup and gave it back to the boy as a keepsake.
According to doctors interviewed by YourHealth, as unnerving as it may sound, getting an insect like a cockroach or spider stuck in the ear is actually quite a common problem encountered by both children and adults.
Dr Barrie Tan, Consultant at the Dept of Otolaryngology at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) said in the emergency setting, he sees such cases about once every three months.
This is unsurprising as insects like dark corners, and hence are attracted to crevices such as ears, he added.
In fact, they can get stuck in even nasal and throat passages.
"This is especially commonly encountered in young children and patients with mental and psychological impairment," said Dr Yuen Heng Wai, Consultant at the Ear, Nose & Throat Department of Changi General Hospital.
Besides cockroaches, he said he has seen ants, moths and even bees stuck in ears before.
And his encounters do not just involve animate objects. He has seen strange objects such as buttons, batteries, pencil lead tips, matchsticks, pieces of paper, erasers and ball bearings getting wedged in ears.
Most of the time, these objects end up where they are when patients use them to clean their ears, he added.
What to do if it happens to you
What to do:
- Seek help immediately
An insect trapped in the ear will desperately try to escape and with its claws, would potentially inflict damages on the eardrum or ear canal.
Leaving them inside the ear is not an option as many retained objects can cause an infection in the ear.
- If medical help is not immediately available, get some olive oil and pour about four to five drops into the ear
Most of the time, when an insect is trapped in the ear, its legs are moving and can hit against the ear drums.
If the insect thrashes about too violently, it can not only cause abrasions and lacerations, but also tear a hole in the ear drum and damage the fragile bones and ligaments there.
The oil serves to drown the insect so it stops moving. In fact, any oil-based liquid substance would do the trick.
In the process, it also helps to prevent the insect from having too firm a grip on the eardrum and ear canal, minimising the potential damage it can cause.
What NOT to do
- DO NOT attempt to extract the object, animate or inanimate, by yourself
If it's alive, it will only make the insect struggle more and inflict more damage. Even if the object is inanimate or dead, it is highly likely that an untrained person would end up removing more than the object.
- DO NOT use water to drown the insect
Drowning the insect in water is likely to cause the insect to swell up, making it bigger and harder to remove later.