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Dangerous injuries: Ears should not be cleaned with cotton swabs
While cotton swab packaging indicates that it should not be used to clean the ears, this warning is often ignored. This has consequences: According to a study, over 30 children in the US go to the emergency room every day because of ear injuries caused by so-called Q-tips.
Not suitable for cleaning the ears
Ear wax is a body's own secretion, which serves the body's own self-cleaning of the ears. It ensures that the skin in the ear canal remains supple and the protective acid mantle is maintained. This way fewer germs can penetrate. Excess ear wax is transported by tiny hairs from the ear canal into the outer ear. However, many people try to help with cotton swabs, although warnings such as "Not suitable for ear cleaning" can be found on the packaging. This can lead to serious injuries, as is also shown in a study from the USA.
The ear canal and eardrum can be injured
Cotton swabs are not suitable for cleaning the ears.
"The sticks can irritate or even injure the ear canal or eardrum," explained Dr. Doris Hartwig-Bade from the German professional association of ear, nose and throat doctors in an older message.
The fact that such injuries occur quite frequently is shown in a US study published in the journal "Journal of Pediatrics".
Over 30 injuries a day
The team led by Dr. Kris Jatana of Ohio State University data from a period between 1990 and 2010.
During these 21 years, approximately 263,000 boys and girls under the age of 18 were admitted to an emergency room in the United States for treatment with cotton swabs for an injury. Converted to one year, that's around 12,500 injuries - or 34 per day.
The majority of injuries (73 percent) occurred during the attempt to clean the ears, according to the scientists.
In ten percent of the cases, the accident happened while playing, and in another nine percent it was due to a fall. The remaining eight percent had other causes.
In most cases, the injuries were not too serious, so that over 99 percent of patients could go home after treatment, but Jatana and his colleagues warn against using the swabs to clean the ears.
Ears usually clean themselves
"We do not recommend using cotton swabs to clean the ear canals," said Jatana in an interview with the "MedicalResearch" portal.
The most common misunderstandings that he encountered in everyday working life are that "the ear canals have to be cleaned regularly at home" and that you have to "use cotton swabs" for this. "Both are wrong," said the expert.
"The ear canals usually clean themselves," said the doctor. “When you use cotton swabs, you not only push the ear wax closer to the eardrum, where it can get stuck, but you also risk injuries.”
Occasionally, a graft can form in the ear, which can lead to hearing impairment, feeling of pressure, earache, itching, ringing in the ears and dizziness.
"If parents are worried that too much ear wax is accumulating in their child's ear, they should get advice from their pediatrician or an ENT specialist and have an individual treatment plan drawn up," said Jatanas. (ad)