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Every single day, dozens of children go to the hospital from parents using cotton swabs in their ear

POSTED: June 15, 2017 3:40 a.m.
Wendy Jessen/

Do you use a cotton swab to clean out your ears or your children's ears? Here's why you need to stop.

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It turns out that the warning on a package of cotton swabs — you know the part that says "do not insert swab into ear canal" — is actually there for a good reason.

How many of us actually heed that warning?

Every year, 12,500 children under eighteen are treated at emergency rooms for ear injuries related to cotton swab use, according to a study in the Journal of Pediatrics. "From 1990 through 2010, an estimated 263,000 children younger than 18 years of age were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments for cotton tip applicator related ear injuries – that’s...about 34 injuries every day," the study stated.

Keep cotton swabs out of ears

Using cotton swabs can damage our ears — perforating ear drums, producing tiny cuts in the ear canal and even dislocate our hearing bones, according to CNN. These injuries can lead to dizziness, hearing loss and other symptoms.

Ears are self-cleaning, which means we shouldn't have to do anything except for maybe removing visible wax from the outer ear. But even using a cotton swab to do this can actually push the wax deeper into the ear.

Dr. Seth Schwartz of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery said, "It's not a bad thing to have wax in your ears. Everybody does and should. It's more of an issue when it becomes too much."

So what can you do if you have excess wax?

Rather than doing other potentially dangerous earwax removal procedures such as candling, using irrigators or other means, it's best to visit the pediatrician or family practice doctor. They can remove wax safely and teach you safe practices to combat excessive wax. The only sort of wax removal you should be doing at home is gently wiping away any excess wax when to comes to the outside of your ear.

What can we use cotton swabs for?

Cccording to Q-tips, the correct usage for cotton swabs is for arts and crafts, makeup application and removal, manicures/pedicures and house cleaning. Using cotton swabs for cleaning ears was not only unintended, but it's also dangerous.

Don't let the temptation for wax-free ears compromise your ear health and safety. Skip cleaning out your ears at home and choose to visit a doctor if you are having problems. Keep the cotton swabs for arts and crafts, instead.
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