I know I am asked on a regular basis, “how do I clean my baby’s/child’s ears? I have replied for years with something that I know I was taught many years ago, maybe even by a grandparent? “Nothing smaller than your elbow should go in your ear”. Who knows where that saying came from but it is a good visual that you should not “stick a Q-tip” or anything into the ear canal.
Now an article published in the journal Pediatrics sure makes that adage seem timely, as about 12,500 children younger than 18 are treated in emergency rooms annually, which translates into about 34 children per day. The study also showed that about two out of three patients were younger than 8 years and children younger than 3 accounted for 40 percent of all injuries.
Cotton swabs are really intended to clean the outer ear and should not be placed into the ear canal…even though most people put a q-tip right into the canal which may cause injury when pushed too far. The study showed that about 30 percent of injuries caused by the cotton swabs were feeling as if there was a foreign body in the ear, while 25 percent of injuries were a perforated ear drum and 23 percent were soft tissue injuries. WOW…talk about expensive health care costs related to one little cotton tipped swab!
Ear nose and throat doctors (otolaryngologists) will tell you that the ear canals are usually self cleaning and using a cotton tipped swab to clean the ear only pushes the wax further down the canal and closer to the ear drum. If in fact the wax becomes impacted by using a q-tip, it is even harder to get the wax out. There are over the counter drops that you can instill in the ear canal to help soften wax and then use a wash cloth to clean the outer ear.
So..resist the urge to put a Q-tip into your ear canal and simply use them to take off makeup, paint small places or any of the millions of other uses…just NOT in the ear!