Fort Worth, Texas,
11:40 AM

The Dangers of Cotton-Tipped Swabs In Your Child's Ear

Almost three dozen kids go to emergency rooms every day after getting their ears cleaned

A new study shows the harm products such as Q-tips can do to a child’s ear.

The article published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that almost three dozen children go to a hospital emergency department in the U.S. as a result of using cotton-tipped swabs to clean the ears.

The study was conducted from 1990 to 2010 and estimates 263,338 children under the age of 18 went to the ER for ear injuries caused by the products. The highest rate of injury was in children up to age 3.

“Q-tips and cotton-tip swabs cause numerous ER injuries we see at Cook Children’s,” Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services said. “I know people hear this all the time, but children should not be putting cotton-tip swabs in their ears. They can cause damage and sometimes the damage can be severe.”

Natalie Roberge, M.D., an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist at Cook Children’s, says problems from placing cotton-tip swabs in the ear can include:

  1. Pushing the wax further into the ear canal causing impaction.
  2. Laceration/bleeding of the ear canal.
  3. Increased risk of otitis externa from the trauma. It's called swimmer's ear, but really any trauma to the ear canal can lead to otitis externa.
  4. Perforation of the ear drum. Some will not heal and require surgery. Rarely the middle ear ossicles will also be damaged.

Dr. Roberge said to use a washcloth to clean the external ear. Don't place anything into the ear canal.

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