Cotton Swabs Send 3 Dozen Children to the ER Each Day

Cotton Swabs Send 3 Dozen Children to the ER Each Day
Science & Medicine

Doctors say you should never clean your ears with cotton swabs, but people reach for them anyway to scoop out the wax. According to the authors of a study in the Journal of Pediatrics, using cotton swabs to clean your ears can be dangerous, especially for children. In fact, use of these cotton swabs sends approximately 3 dozen children to the ER every day. [1]

Approximately 12,500 children under the age of 18 are treated in U.S. emergency departments for ear injuries each year, which amounts to about 34 visits per day.

Lead author Dr. Kris Jatana, assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the Ohio State University, says:

“This is not like brushing your teeth every day. Children and adults do not need to clean out the ear canal of wax as part of a routine hygiene practice.”

For the study, Jatana and her colleagues looked at hospital visits between 1990 and 2010 and found that an estimated 260,000 children wound up in the emergency room with ear injuries.

The most common injuries included tears in the tissue that separates the ear canal from the middle ear, known as the tympanic membrane, a.k.a the eardrum. The majority of the injuries were the result of children using cotton swabs to clean their ears.

Natural Society
Source: The Independent

The younger the child, the more prone they were to ear injuries. Two-thirds of the young patients were younger than 8, and 40% were age 3 or younger. [2]

Cotton swabs can slice the ear canals, perforate our eardrums, and dislocate our hearing bones. This can lead to injuries as minor as dizziness and ringing, to more significant problems like hearing loss. [1]

Should Anyone Really Use Q-Tips to Clean Their Ears?

As cleaning goes, our ears don’t really need our help. They’re self-cleaning, and there’s no reason to go digging around in them.

Jatana says:

“The two biggest misconceptions I hear as an otolaryngologist are that the ear canals need to be cleaned in the home setting, and that cotton tip applicators should be used to clean them; both of those are incorrect.” [2]

She adds:

“It’s concerning that while these products have been around for almost 100 years and many of the manufacturers put warning labels on the products stating to not use them in the ear canal, we are still seeing a significant number of injuries in children using them for the purpose of cleaning their ear canal.” [3]

Natural Society
Source: The Washington Post

Ear wax actually has protective, lubricating, and antibacterial properties, and its presence is perfectly normal. If you find wax on the outside of your ear, simply wipe it away with a wet cloth.

If you absolutely can’t resist cleaning out your ears, you should opt for drops, or at least reduce how often and how deep you go with those cotton tools.


[1] CNN

[2] Newser

[3] Live Science

The Independent

The Washington Post