Florida woman has live cockroach removed from her ear
Florida woman has live cockroach removed from her ear: ‘I felt it thrashing about’
- 1 Florida woman has live cockroach removed from her ear: ‘I felt it thrashing about’
- 2 Get the latest from TODAY
- 3 I Went to the ER with a Live Roach in My Ear and It Was as Horrifying as You Think
- 4 How Common Is It Actually for a Bug to Crawl in Your Ear?
- 5 Your ears are cockroach heaven and that’s why they keep crawling in there
- 6 Share this story
- 7 Woman lived with cockroach in her ear for 9 days after it crawled in while she was sleeping
Get the latest from TODAY
The thought of having a bug crawl in your ear is nightmarish for many people, but for Katie Holley of Melbourne, Florida, that nightmare recently became a reality.
This week, Holley penned a surprisingly hilarious essay for Self.com about waking up one night in April feeling «a weird movement» in her ear, as if something were burrowing inside. She rushed to the bathroom for a cotton swab and gently wiped inside her ear. On the swab she saw two «skinny black lines» that looked an awful lot like roach legs.
«I started to hyperventilate,» Holley told TODAY. Her husband, Jordan, was soon awake, peering inside her ear with his iPhone’s flashlight. Within moments, Jordan calmly announced he could see the back end of a palmetto bug, a type of cockroach familiar to anyone who’s lived in the Sunshine State and other hot, humid climates.
As Holley went into «meltdown» mode, Jordan, a percussionist with steady hands, gently inserted tweezers in her ear to try to grab the roach. «I was kind of twitching because the roach was twitching,» Holley recalled. «I don’t want to say it hurt, but it was very uncomfortable and strange and also uncomfortable psychologically.”
Jordan extracted one of the roach’s leg, then another, before the couple decided they’d better drive to the ER of a nearby hospital. On the way, Holley felt the bug wriggle angrily. «I could feel its arms or whatever, and probably its antennae moving. I could hear it all, too,” she said.
I Went to the ER with a Live Roach in My Ear and It Was as Horrifying as You Think
Last year, my husband and I purchased our first house. Lucky for us new homeowners, the house needed minimal work. Any fixer-upping was mostly stuff we wanted to do, rather than repairs that were absolute necessities.
But one annoying, consistent downside of our new home was the presence of cockroaches—otherwise known as palmetto bugs down here—thanks to the Florida climate.
Anyone who has lived in a humid location is probably well-acquainted with these flying, horrifying monsters. I learned that they tend to take shelter in homes in hot or wet weather, although they can show up out of nowhere. Well, roaches kept making appearances in our home, so I finally called a local exterminator.
A few weeks ago, he walked around and sprayed the outside of the house as well as the baseboards in every room in the interior. My husband and I felt good about this. We decided to spend $85 every three months for what we felt was important for our peace of mind. Unfortunately, our sense of relief that we wouldn’t find any more roaches was a little premature.
I shot up out of bed, disoriented, and stumbled to the bathroom. I could feel that my ear was not right. I grabbed a cotton swab and gently inserted it into my ear to see what was up and I felt something move.
When I pulled the cotton swab out, there were two dark brown, skinny pieces stuck to the tip. Moments later, I came to the realization that they were legs. LEGS. Legs that could only belong to an adventurous palmetto bug exploring my ear canal.
I started to hyperventilate, and my husband searched furiously for his glasses and joined me in the bathroom. He looked into my ear and confirmed that there was a roach trying to burrow its way to my brain. (OK, I know the ear canal isn’t a hop, skip, and a jump away from the brain, but that’s immediately where my mind went.)
In that moment, my husband was my only hope. He grabbed a pair of tweezers, located the thickest part of the roach that was visible (I KNOW) and tried to very delicately extract it. (For what it’s worth, my husband is a professional percussionist, and all of his hand movements are very precise.)
While my husband made a frazzled attempt to locate clothing, his wallet, and keys, I managed to put on a bra and yoga pants, pull my hair into a messy bun, and corral our dog into the gated area in our kitchen where she can roam freely when we are out of the house—all while having a MOVING ROACH IN MY EAR.
Women can get shit done, let me tell you.
As I walked to the car, I could feel the roach trying to wiggle deeper into my ear canal. It was an awful feeling, one that was not necessarily painful, but psychologically torturous. Think of that humming sound you hear when you plug your ears and press really hard—that’s what I heard and felt, on the left side of my head as the roach tried to crawl. It was bizarre.
Thankfully, the hospital is only about two miles from where we live, and there were few cars on the road at 2 A.M., so we got there pretty fast. He dropped me at the entrance and went to park the car.
Lucky for me, it was a slow evening in the ER, with just one woman accompanied by two little girls in the waiting room. I approached the front desk to tell them my issue. The man sitting behind the desk immediately asked me if I was experiencing pain, probably due to the twisted look of horror on my face. I told him I was not in pain, although I felt like I was going to vomit. I explained to him that a roach crawled into my ear while I was asleep and it was stuck. He asked a nurse to check out my ear with an otoscope (in case I was lying. ) and then confirmed to me and my husband that there was a roach in my ear.
He told me to stay calm and sent us back to the lobby so that I could get a wristband. I hobbled along with my head cocked to the side in the hopes that gravity might take hold of the offending insect and dislodge it. (Spoiler: It didn’t.) I was also whimper-crying, which must have been horrifying for the two little girls in the lobby to witness. I was aware that I needed to get myself together because I didn’t want them to hear us talking and then have nightmares for the rest of their lives about bugs burrowing into their ears.
Once I received my medical wristband, I was taken back to a room where another nurse attempted to take my blood pressure, but it wasn’t working. I was too overwhelmed, and the cuff kept squeezing my arm, all while the roach was still attempting to set up camp in my head. I finally shouted (not at her, just into the void, also it was kind of hard to hear because something was obstructing my ear) that I suffer from high blood pressure and am on medication for it, so there was no way she was going to get a reading that wasn’t stroke level. She agreed to remove the cuff.
Next, I was asked to lie down with my left ear facing upward so that the doctor could come look inside it. He also confirmed that a roach was indeed in my ear (OMFG I AM AWARE, PEOPLE). He told a nurse to get him some Lidocaine, a topical numbing agent, that would temporarily cause a loss of feeling in my ear and simultaneously kill the roach. I was still whimpering, but also grateful/annoyed as my husband attempted to calm me down.
For that reason, I won’t bother trying to explain it and will just hope no one else has to experience this very unique situation. Use your imagination.
It took about two minutes for the roach to die (RIP, asshole). Then, using big, curved tweezers, the doctor removed a few chunks of roach. I kept my eyes shut, but each time the doctor extracted a piece, the nurses and my husband would tell me to look. Like, no thanks. Why would I want to see that?
Once three pieces of roach were removed, the doctor showed them to us on a little napkin. They were small. When intact and in all of its roach glory, I would guess that it was about the size of my pinky nail down to my first knuckle. So it wasn’t super huge—but it was still a roach. In my ear.
How Common Is It Actually for a Bug to Crawl in Your Ear?
You may have recently read our nightmare bug-in-ear story by Katie Holley, a woman who rushed to the ER with a live roach in her ear, which crawled up in there while she was sleeping.
In case you missed it, we’ll give you the TL;DR version that sums up the horror: “I could feel that my ear was not right. I grabbed a cotton swab and gently inserted it into my ear to see what was up and I felt something move,» Holley wrote. «When I pulled the cotton swab out, there were two dark brown, skinny pieces stuck to the tip. Moments later, I came to the realization that they were legs. LEGS. Legs that could only belong to an adventurous palmetto bug [a type of roach] exploring my ear canal.”
So, Holley rushed to the ER with a freaking roach in her ear to have it surgically removed by a doctor. Until that point, she could feel the thing crawling around in there. Unfortunately, things didn’t end there. A few days later, she went to see her primary care physician, who flushed her ear and removed a few more roach pieces. She was then referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, who discovered there was still a head, torso, more limbs, and antennae in there. Thankfully, it was all removed—a week after the bug first crawled in there—and she’s now doing OK. Or. as OK as you can be after that trauma.
One of the scariest parts of Holley’s story was when the ENT told her that he extracted bugs from peoples’ ears at least once a month—and that she was the second person that day who needed. it. Cue internal (or external, honestly) screaming.
“We see this about four to five times a year in our clinic,” Benjamin McGrew, M.D., an associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham department of otolaryngology (who did not treat Holley), tells SELF. “Usually it’s a cockroach that has wedged in the ear canal and can’t get out.”
It can get even grosser than that: “I’ve seen spiders make a web in the ear canal; small moths and flying insects can get in as well,” Erich Voigt, M.D., chief of general/sleep otolaryngology at NYU Langone Health, tells SELF. “Cockroaches tend to get stuck inside and will scratch at the ear drum with their front legs.”
Because the critter is usually still alive, it can create a bunch of bizarre and uncomfortable symptoms, including pain and a weird crawling sensation, Michael Tom, M.D., an ear nose and throat physician with ENT and Allergy Associates, tells SELF. And, if the insect has wings, the patient might also hear a buzzing sound or noise related to the wing movement. “Often the bug tries to crawl but keeps running into the eardrum,” Dr. Tom says.
While ENTs may see this a few times a year, Nancy Troyano, Ph.D., a board-certified entomologist and director of technical education and training for Rentokil North America, tells SELF it’s pretty rare as a whole. However, she says there are a few scenarios where it’s more likely to happen than others:
You’re sleeping in a cockroach-infested room: “Cockroaches are active at night, and are always looking to squeeze themselves into tight spaces,” Dr. Troyano says.
You’re camping out: “There may be some critters crawling around on the ground that could accidentally enter your ear canal,” Dr. Troyano says.
You have flying indoor insects: Flies are attracted to the chemicals people emit, and one could make an accidental landing in your ear and crawl inside.
While any bug could make their way into your ears, cockroaches and flies are the biggest ones to be concerned about, Dr. Troyano says.
This may not be any consolation, but the bug probably got in there by accident—and it wants to get out as much as you want it to. “Entry into the ear canal is an accidental one,” Dr. Troyano says. “You happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” So, maybe it’s good to know that most bugs aren’t just hunting for your ears every night. Maybe?
The Mayo Clinic specifically recommends using mineral oil, olive oil, or baby oil to try to float the critter out. First, tilt your head so that the insect ear is pointing up, pour warm—not hot—oil into your ear (fun!). The hope is that the insect will get caught in the oil and literally float or drain out of your ear. If nothing else, this should kill the insect, Dr. Voigt says.
You may be tempted to probe around in there with a cotton swab to see what’s in your ear, but the Mayo Clinic says this is a not a good idea: You risk pushing the bug in further and damaging your ear in the process.
Then, get to a doctor—even if you think you got the sucker out yourself. You want to make sure everything is out and your ear is OK. If you didn’t kill the insect or can’t figure out how to take it down, your doctor will kill it with alcohol or oil, Dr. McGrew says. Then, they’ll remove it with small forceps that fit into the ear canal.
And, not that you would, but you don’t want to just leave a bug in there: It could lead to an ear canal infection, Dr. Voigt says.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to have bugs in your ears and not know it. “I have had several patients who had no idea there was a bug in their ear,” says Dr. Tom. “I have removed small bedbugs and small winged insects, and there was no known history of anything abnormal in their ear.”
Sleeping in a clean bed with clean sheets is a good idea, Dr. Troyano says. And, if you’re sleeping outside, wear insect repellent.
But, if you live in a particularly buggy location (whether that’s a humid climate or an old apartment building) there just may be bugs around even if you’re super clean. If that’s the case, getting an exterminator wouldn’t be a bad idea. And on top of that, make sure you avoid wearing perfume or strongly-scented shampoos or lotions to bed since bugs tend to be attracted to these, Dr. Troyano says. Of course, you could resort to wearing earplugs at night, but it’s probably not necessary if you don’t have a bug problem at your place.
Your ears are cockroach heaven and that’s why they keep crawling in there
‘The smell that emanates from the ear is attractive to the cockroach.’
The news seems to arrive every few months, sticking in your head like a nightmare that left you drenched in sweat: yet another person found a cockroach in their ear. It happened to a Florida woman just last month: a cockroach crawled inside her ear while she was sleeping, and she lived with the bug lodged there for nine days before it was removed. Then last week, another Florida resident went through the same ordeal. This time, the roach allegedly laid its eggs before dying. So, why does this keep happening? Why do cockroaches wriggle themselves inside people’s ears, where they’ll almost certainly meet their death?
First of all, cockroaches like to go around during the night, which coincidentally is when people sleep. So by virtue of just lying there motionless, we become likely victims. Cockroaches also like small, warm, humid places. And ears qualify as all of the above. “By going into the ear, that’s like a safe place to eat or rest,” says Coby Schal, an entomologist at North Carolina State University. That’s right: “a safe place to eat.” Roaches might wander inside our ears in search of a tasty snack.
See, cockroaches are attracted by certain types of chemicals called volatile fatty acids, which are released by fermented foods like bread and beer, Schal says. And just like cheese, our earwax radiates these cockroach-wooing chemicals as well. “The smell that emanates from the ear is attractive to the cockroach,” Schal tells The Verge.
The problem is that once the roach crawls inside the ear, it’s likely to get stuck. That’s because once the bug is inside, wriggling its legs, people instinctively scratch their ear, pushing the roach deeper inside the ear canal. Sometimes, the cockroach survives and according to Schal, the common household pest called the German cockroach can live for about a week without food and water. But often times, the scratching squishes the roach dead. “Now you have a ruptured cockroach that’s full of bacteria inside the ear,” Schal says.
That’s what leads to ear infections. The outside of cockroaches is actually surprisingly clean, Schal says, unless the roach has been crawling all over your toilet bowl right before coming to your bed. The critters spend lots of time cleaning themselves. But inside, there’s a concentration of bacteria. Roaches also have spiny legs, so if you push the bug too deep down by using tweezers or a Q-tip, you risk tearing apart your eardrum. That is not only painful, it can also lead to infections and hearing loss. So, the first thing to do if you have a roach infestation and think one bug has found its way inside your body is to go see a doctor, says entomologist Joe Ballenger. “The ear is a delicate organ,” he tells The Verge.
Before extracting the roach, doctors will generally kill it if it’s still alive, by either using mineral oils or a numbing drug called lidocaine. That could cause some problems though, says Schal. Some chemicals that kill cockroaches make them poop and barf before they expire their last breath. “It tends to defecate and regurgitate, both of which are not good to be happening inside someone’s ear,” he says. “It emits all sorts of bacteria, fungi, and nasty stuff.” But a doctor will clean the ear after removing the intruder, so roach puke and excrement shouldn’t be a concern.
Cockroaches are obviously not the only bugs that find their ways into our ears — but they are the most common offenders. That’s because roaches live around people, feeding off our garbage. A study published in 2006 reported 24 cases of patients with “ear-invading” bugs over a two-year period in South Africa. Cockroaches accounted for 42 percent of the insects, followed by flies and beetles. (There were also moths and ticks.) Another study published in 1993 listed the objects extracted from the ears of 98 patients at a hospital in Los Angeles county over the course of one year: cockroaches were number one, with 43 cases, followed by bread, cotton, and other objects like “portion of syringe,” a garlic clove, and a popcorn kernel.
For the record, the intruding roaches are usually German cockroaches, which can be up to 0.6 inches long (1.5 centimeters). The larger American cockroaches, which inhabit sewers, are way too big to fit inside an ear, but their young might, Schal says. (Both are found all over the US.)
Fear that a cockroach will crawl into your ear shouldn’t keep you up at night, says Ballenger. “It’s one of those things that’s a little bit of a freak accident,” he says. “It’s not common enough for people to worry about.” It’s a freak accident that makes you shiver, though. And that’s why we keep hearing in the news about (mostly Florida) people getting roaches stuck inside their orifices. “It’s that yuck factor,” says Schal. “It sounds like it’s happening all the time but it’s really not.”
Still, even entomologists — who handle insects for a living — are grossed out by the idea. Ballenger says he sometimes goes “black lighting,” which involves shining a light against a white sheet in the middle of a field at night to attract as many insects as possible. (“Some people like rollercoasters. We like those sorts of things,” he says as an explanation.) In the frenzy of bugs storming by the light, it happens that one bumps against his face, he says. In that context, if one critter got inside his ear, Ballenger says he’d be fine. But having a cockroach crawl inside your ear as you sleep in your bed? That’s another story. It’s like an invasion of privacy, and definitely off limits.
“I get why it freaks people out,” Ballenger says. “Totally understandable.”
Woman lived with cockroach in her ear for 9 days after it crawled in while she was sleeping
A doctor in the ER believed he had removed all of the pieces, but nine days later she was still experiencing pain. (Katie Holley/Fox 35)
A Florida woman lived through a real-life nightmare last month and is now sharing how she came to learn that a cockroach crawled into her ear while she was sleeping.
Katie Holley, who recently purchased a new home with her husband, said they had been diligent about hiring an exterminator to spray every three months in order to keep the cockroaches at bay.
However, one night she woke up after feeling “like someone had placed a chip of ice in my left earhole — but it was something way worse.”
In an essay published in SELF Magazine, Holley said she went to the bathroom and used a cotton swab to investigate, but to her horror felt something move.
A trip to the ENT revealed that several pieces of the bug were still in her ear. (Katie Holley/Fox 35)
“When I pulled the cotton swab out, there were two dark brown, skinny pieces stuck to the tip. Moments later, I came to the realization that they were legs. LEGS. Legs that could only belong to an adventurous palmetto bug exploring my ear canal,” she wrote.
Holley said her husband confirmed her fears that a roach had crawled into her ear, and tried to pull it out with a pair of tweezers but only managed to get two legs out. They rushed to the local hospital where a doctor administered a numbing agent that would also work to kill the bug.
“As the doctor administered Lidocaine, the roach began to…react,” she wrote. “Feeling a roach in the throes of death, lodged in a very sensitive part of your body, is unlike anything I can adequately explain.”
The doctor removed what he said was the entire cockroach in three pieces, and Holley was given a prescription for antibiotics.
Nine days later, she was still experiencing pain. She said that she told her primary care doctor what had happened, and a physician assistant flushed her ear four times. They discovered what she thought might be another leg.
“My physician proceeded to remove the leg and flush my ear again, only to examine it and see even more remnants,” Holley wrote. “She ended up pulling out six more pieces of the roach’s carcass — nine days after the incident took place.”
Instead of sending her home, the doctor suggested she see a specialist to ensure the entire bug was removed.
“Once I got situated in the fancy chair in his office later that day, the ENT placed some sort of microscope beside my ear. He didn’t say much, but he did confirm there was still ‘something in there,’” Holley wrote. “Using a tool that looked like very large scissors, he extracted THE ENTIRE HEAD, UPPER TORSO, MORE LIMBS AND AN ANTENNAE.”
Holley said that the ENT told her she was the second case he had seen that day. She said she now sleeps with ear plugs and that they had the exterminator come back to the house to re-spray.