4-year-old boy in Florida suffers mystery pain in ear after eating burger at barbecue

A 2cm-long metal wire, which likely came from a grill brush, got lodged in soft tissues between the boy’s ear and throat. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: PIXABAY

For days, a four-year-old boy had been suffering from excruciating pain in one ear, but no one could figure out why.

He was at a barbecue in Orlando, Florida, when he suddenly grabbed his ear and started crying.

His parents took him to a hospital, but nothing irregular was found with his ear. They were told to give the boy a painkiller and to administer ear drops.

But the pain worsened. After a few days, he ran a fever and refused to eat or drink.

His parents again took the boy to a hospital’s emergency room.

Dr Meghan Martin, the emergency paediatrician on duty, noticed swelling on the right side of his throat and some tenderness on the right side of his neck, and ordered a CAT scan.

“We got our answer,” she said in a video she posted on TikTok.

It was a 2cm-long metal wire that got lodged in soft tissues between the boy’s ear and throat.

The wire likely came from a common barbecue cleaning tool – a grill brush.

The wire was probably lodged in a hamburger being cooked on grill grates that were cleaned with a brass or steel brush.

“He had been eating a hamburger when this happened,” said Dr Martin. “The metal wires on the grill brush became lodged in the hamburger, and when he ate the hamburger it got lodged in the soft tissues.”

The boy was operated on to remove the wire, and has been pain-free since.

Dr Martin has a warning for barbecue lovers: “Do not use grill brushes with metal wires.”

The bristles on them can break loose from the brush head, get stuck in residue on the cooking grates and eventually end up in food, leading to throat or abdominal injuries, she said.

One study estimated that between 2004 and 2012, nearly 1,700 people went to the emergency room with injuries related to grill brush bristles.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.