cotton swabs

Parents need to beware cotton swabs. Although many use them to clean their children’s ears as well as their own, a new study shows that they can cause significant injuries.

Cotton Swabs Lead to ER Trips:

About 12,500 children are treated in emergency departments annually for problems caused by cotton tip applicators. Often the effect of trying to clean the ears is simply to push the wax down into the ear canal. Using them in the ears can also cause injuries, including perforated eardrums.

Most of the problems occurred when children were trying to clean their own ears. The senior author emphasizes that cotton swabs should never be used to clean anyone’s ears and they should definitely be kept out of children’s reach.

Ameen et al, Journal of Pediatrics, online May 1, 2017 

What Can You Use Instead?

The investigators point out that ears clean themselves naturally. If that is not enough, they recommend gentle irrigation. Parents should ask the pediatrician to demonstrate the proper technique.

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  1. Robert

    Have large build up of ear wax. Use hearing aids. Wash/flush ears weekly with 50% water and 50% peroxide for ten minutes in each ear. Change filters in aids monthly.

  2. Annie

    My late husband was a very experienced General Practitioner and each year saw a significant number of ear injuries, particularly in children, caused by cleaning ears with cotton buds .

    His advice to parents (and adult patients) was “never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear”. Heed this and you will never suffer an ear canal injury.

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