Hear this: Cotton-tipped swabs are not made for ears
TrishaKorioth, Staff Writer
If your bathroom cabinet includes cotton-tipped swabs to clean your child’s ears,
you might want to move them to the craft drawer, makeup case or cleaning cabinet instead.
Cotton-tipped swabs are not meant to be placed in ears. In fact, pediatricians say
the best thing to do with earwax is to leave it alone. Trying to remove earwax can
cause problems, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
There’s a reason people wrongly think swabs are OK to use in their ears. Their inventor
created cotton-tipped swabs after seeing his wife try to clean inside their baby’s
ears with a piece of cotton on the end of a toothpick in the 1920s. Doctors recently
found that using cotton-tipped swabs in this manner could cause more harm than good.
Putting cotton-tipped swabs into the ear canal pushes wax further into the ear. It
can cause damage, dizziness and balance problems. A child whose earwax is blocking
the ear may have ringing or fullness, ear pain, itching, discharge, odor and cough.
Swabs also may tear or rupture the eardrum causing pain, bleeding and permanent hearing
A recent study found that about 34 children go to the emergency room each day for
cotton-tipped swab ear injuries. Most injuries happened when cleaning the ears, especially
when the child tried to clean them. Damage to the ear drums was most common for kids
younger than 8 years old.
Earwax also can build up if children wear ear plugs or stick their fingers in their
Over-the-counter products can help treat earwax buildup, but some products can lead
to more problems. For example, ear candles (also called ear cones) can cause burns,
bleeding or can hurt the ear drum, said the Food and Drug Administration (http://bit.ly/2sdhWx8).
If the earwax is not causing symptoms or blocking the ear canal, it should be left
alone, doctors say. For more information on earwax buildup, visit the HealthyChildren.org
Symptom Checker at http://bit.ly/2rxYCcT.