A seemingly harmless backyard barbecue almost turned fatal for a four-year-old boy in Florida. The boy had been eating a hamburger when a two-centimeter-long metal wire from a grill brush became lodged in his throat’s peritonsillar tissues. The child was complaining of ear pain, but his ear exam showed nothing abnormal, and he was sent home with advice to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
After two more visits to the emergency room and several tests, a CAT scan finally revealed the problem. The metal wire had lodged in the boy’s throat, causing an abscess to form. Fortunately, pediatric emergency medicine physician Dr. Meghan Martin was on call when the child was brought in for the third time. She and the ear, nose, and throat surgeons were able to remove the foreign body and drain the abscess. The boy was started on antibiotics, and his pain was completely resolved.
This story went viral after Dr. Martin shared it on TikTok. In just 72 hours, the video had garnered over 35 million views, highlighting the importance of raising awareness about this potential danger. Dr. Martin shared the story not to scare people but to help them understand how something as simple as a grill brush could become a life-threatening hazard.
“The ER is always unpredictable,” Dr. Martin told Fox News Digital. “We see a lot of unusual things, but this is one of the more unique cases I’ve treated, though not the only one.”
In her TikTok video, Dr. Martin warned viewers about the dangers of using metal wired grill brushes. “So, the grill brush — the metal wires on the grill brush — had become lodged in the hamburger and when he ate the hamburger, it got lodged in the soft tissues,” she explained.
This is not an isolated incident. In 2016, a study published in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery reported that there were approximately 1,700 wire-bristle grill brush injuries in the US between 2002 and 2014. This number is likely an underestimate, as many cases may go unreported or undiagnosed.
While grill brushes with metal bristles are commonly used to clean grills, the tiny bristles can easily break off and stick to food. If ingested, the sharp bristles can become lodged in the mouth, throat, or digestive system, causing pain, discomfort, and even infection.
To avoid this potential hazard, experts recommend using alternative cleaning methods, such as nylon-bristled brushes or stone scrapers. Alternatively, you can use a ball of aluminum foil to clean the grill grates. After cleaning, make sure to inspect the grill grates and wipe them down with a damp cloth to remove any loose bristles or debris.
This incident also highlights the importance of listening to patients and validating their pain. The boy’s initial complaint of ear pain was dismissed, but Dr. Martin persisted in finding the cause of his discomfort. “We were able to validate the pain the child was in and to give an answer to the family,” she said. “We never want a kiddo to be sick, but finding an answer for the family felt good, especially something that we could fix.”
Dr. Martin’s TikTok video has sparked a conversation about the potential dangers of metal-bristled grill brushes and the need to be vigilant about unexpected health concerns. The video has also demonstrated the power of social media in raising awareness and educating the public about important health issues.
In conclusion, this story serves as a cautionary tale about the potential dangers of seemingly harmless activities like backyard barbecues. It’s essential to be aware of potential hazards and take steps to mitigate them to prevent unnecessary injuries or illnesses.