Eww! Live Cockroach Pulled from Woman's Nose in Rare Case

American cockroach
(Image credit: Smith1972 / Shutterstock.com)

A woman who woke up in the middle of the night because she felt an odd "crawling sensation" in her head turned out to be harboring a real, live cockroach in her nose, according to a new report of the case.

The 42-year-old woman, who lives in Chennai, India, said she woke up after feeling that something had crawled up her nose, reported the New Indian Express.

"I could not explain the feeling, but I was sure it was some insect. There was a tingling, crawling sensation. Whenever it moved, it gave me a burning sensation in my eyes," the woman told the New Indian Express. She also reported experiencing a severe headache and difficulty breathing, according to CNN.

The woman visited several clinics before doctors found the nightmare-inducing cause. The cockroach had "burrowed into the roof of the nose, almost near the skull base, which is the dividing point between the brain and the nose," Dr. M.N. Shankar, the ear, nose and throat physician who treated the patient at Stanley Medical College in Chennai, told CNN. [27 Oddest Medical Cases]

Reports of cockroaches crawling up noses appear to be unusual, doctors said.

"I've never actually seen that. I would imagine it's not very common," said Dr. Richard Nelson, an emergency medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who was not involved in the case. "[But] it makes sense that it could happen," because there have been numerous reports of cockroaches crawling into people's ears, Nelson told Live Science. In fact, Nelson said he has seen at least a dozen cockroaches in people's ears over his three decades in medicine.

According to guidelines published in the journal American Family Physician, common foreign objects found in people's (usually children's) noses include beads, buttons, toy parts, pebbles, candle wax, food, paper, cloth and button batteries. Insects are more commonly found in the ears of people who are older than 10 years.

It's not clear why bugs more commonly appear in ears than noses, but Nelson speculated that insects in the nose would be more likely to wake people up, and could perhaps be expelled more easily, than an insect in the ears.

"Maybe if it goes up the nose, you would start coughing or sneezing and expel the insect, whereas you can't do that in your ear," Nelson said.

But if an insect does find its way into the nose, could it crawl into the brain? Nelson said it's "highly unlikely" that the bug could enter the brain from the nose, because a bone separates the top of the nasal passage from the brain.

To remove the cockroach, doctors in India first ran an instrument called an endoscope up the woman's nose, so they could see the insect. Then, they used small forceps and a suction machine to remove the bug, according to CNN. The doctors also took a video of their procedure.

If doctors hadn't removed the cockroach, it would have likely died, and might have caused an infection, CNN reported.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.