Clinical Tip: Distraction + the power of suggestion = Successful throat cultures

October 1, 2004

Open your ear!

When trying to obtain a throat culture from an uncooperative child, I hold the culture swab in my dominant hand and a plain cotton-tipped applicator in my other hand. I rub the cotton-tipped applicator against the patient's ear lobe while saying a few times, "open your ear; open your ear." Once the patient realizes that no pain is being inflicted, I suddenly say, "open your mouth." Amazingly, eight out of 10 times the child complies with my request. As I obtain the culture, I keep repeating "open your mouth," just as I did with the ear. Sometimes I even hear a chuckle from the parent as I tell the child to open his ear.

N. Zvi Avigdor, MD

Forest Hills, N.Y.