Cotton Swabs Injure 34 Kids a Day

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We're all guilty of it, but here's why we need to stop kids from putting cotton swabs in their ears...


A few statistics about cotton-swab-related injuries:

  • Between 1990 and 2010, ~263,000 children were taken to the emergency room for cotton-swab inflicted injuries
  • ~12,500 children come into emergency rooms annually due to cotton swab injuries
  • In a survey of 1000 patients at an ENT clinic, 15-20% of the respondents disagreed with the statement that cotton swabs could cause damage: wax impaction, perforation, damage to hearing bones, and infections. (This is cause for concern, and it supports the need for cotton swab manufacturers to place bigger warning labels to dissuade consumers from using the swabs in the ear canal.)

warning label on Q-Tips

Regardless that cotton swab manufacturers are placing labels on their boxes, many people continue to use the cotton-tipped applicator in their ears as well as their children's. Though some consumers may actually understand the risks associated with this practice, they hold onto the false belief that earwax needs to be manually cleaned or that they will be careful enough not to cause damage. 

However, the data does not lie. 34 children per day are sent to the emergency room due to cotton swab injuries. Most frighteningly, in the 20-year study conducted by Dr. Kris Jatana a pediatric otolaryngologist at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and associate professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, he found that "children under 8 accounted for two-thirds of the injuries." Not only were youngsters the ones who were most often injured, but these kids were often using the cotton swab on their own ears without parental supervision. 

The greatest misconception lies in the traditional belief that cleaning ears are an essential part of personal hygiene. Yet the body's production of earwax is healthy, self-regulating and self-cleaning. Dr. Jatana says that visible earwax should just be wiped away with a cloth. He stressed the importance of our body's natural ear protectant, lubricant, and antibacterial secretion, "I hope that we can learn from the number of injuries and help advise children and parents that this is not something that needs to be done." 

***Spoiler Alert***

This is not always the case. For some people, earwax is simply too much of a good thing. In cases where earwax doesn’t properly self-remove, earwax builds up and drives us to attempt unnatural removal techniques that cause more harm than good. Therefore, do yourself a favor and put the kibosh on harmful activities and #LoveYourEarwax. 

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