MONTREAL A Quebec coroner is calling for stricter product warnings from Health Canada after linking the death of a Montreal man to his use of cotton ear swabs.
Daniel St-Pierre, 43, died from meningitis last year after an infection from his outer ear migrated through his perforated eardrum and killed him, the coroner concluded.
had been a frequent user of cotton swabs, which probably ended up giving him an ear infection through overuse and repeated rubbing, coroner Jacques Ramsay said.
He then used a swab "with maybe a little more vigour than usual," which perforated his eardrum, letting the outer ear's infection travel into his inner ear, the coroner said.
"Once you're in the inner ear, you're millimetres away from the meninges and the brain," Dr. Ramsay said in an interview yesterday. "You just need one time to perforate your eardrum, and that opens the barrier and allows the infection to migrate."
While meningitis, an infection of the fluid around the spinal cord and brain, remains a "remote complication" from such a rupture, Health Canada should put stronger product warnings on cotton swab products, he said. Dr. Ramsay proposed a diagram of an ear with a red X through it.
Mr. St-Pierre went to a hospital emergency room one day last March after
waking with pain and with blood coming out of his right ear. The outer ear was so inflamed, the doctor couldn't even see the eardrum. Mr. St-Pierre was sent home with eardrops.
His condition worsened throughout the night and the next day. Finally, his wife called 911 and Mr. St-Pierre was transported by ambulance to Montreal General Hospital, where he died.
Dr. Ramsay says overuse of cotton swabs can lead to a swelling of the outer ear that can give users the sensation their ears are blocked.
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