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Are Cotton Swabs Safe For Children?

The Everyday Bathroom Item Sending Thousands of Kids to the Emergency Room

For as long as we can remember, parents have been warned against using cotton swabs to clean their children's ears, but this is still proving to be an issue, sending thousands of kids to the hospital. A new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics revealed that from 1990 to 2010, more than 263,000 children had been treated in emergency rooms for cotton-tip-applicator-related ear injuries in the United States.

Although the study was framed around individuals under the age of 18, children under 8 made up about 67 percent of the study and children under 3 retained the highest degree of injury. It's important to point out that the most common diagnosis of these emergency room incidents was "the presence of a foreign body and tympanic membrane perforation," which means that a portion the cotton swab was stuck in the ear canal, causing damage to the eardrum.

If not treated right away, the pushing of a cotton swab in your child's (or your own) ear could result in hearing loss, dizziness, bleeding, and pain, as noted in the study.

This is a horrible and preventable injury that parents need to be reminded about. Even if you're not using the swabs to clean your children's ears, the majority of patients treated in the study had handled the cotton swabs themselves, so please keep them out of reach. Ear wax is normal and your ears are self-cleaning, so the wax will eventually fall out. Please see the doctor if your child has an excessive amount of wax, but do not resort to cleaning with a cotton swab!

Image Source: Flickr user Naomi
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