The Dangerous Item Hiding in Your Medicine Cabinet
A danger hides in plain sight in your medicine cabinet. And it’s not nail clippers or prescription medications. A gentler culprit turns deadly in the hands of adults when used on children. Keep reading to learn more.
Think twice when cleaning a child’s ears
Helping children clean their ears seems innocent enough. But harm can be done to children when their parents use cotton swabs to clean their ears. According to a study in the Journal of Pediatrics, an average of 12,500 children go to the hospital every year for injuries because of cotton swabs.
Hint: How cotton swabs cause damage.
Don’t stick a cotton swab too deep
What happens to kids when adults clean their ears is they stick a cotton swab too deep, damaging a child’s ear. Sticking a cotton swab “too deep into your ear canal can cause bleeding, dizziness, tympanic membrane perforation, and even hearing loss,” Real Simple says.
Hint: Give the cotton swabs a break.
Don’t clean your ears often
“There is a misconception among the general public that the ear canal requires regular cleaning and that cotton-tip applicators are good products for that purpose,” researchers write in the study. “Generally speaking, the ear canal is self-cleaning,” Christopher Chang, M.D., an otolaryngologist in Warrenton, Virginia, tells SELF. “You really don’t have to do a whole lot,” he adds.
Hint: Doctors know.
Doctors see the culprit
Going overboard with a cotton swab won’t go unnoticed by a doctor. A cotton swab sized hole can be made in the eardrum, according to SELF. “You can actually see the impression of the Q-tip on the earwax,” using a scope, according to Chang.
Hint: You may damage the eardrum.
Ears are fragile
The eardrum is a fragile part of the human body. Shoving a stick covered in cotton close to the eardrum is not good. The worst case scenario is the cotton swab can pierce the eardrum, which is as painful as it sounds. The healing process can take anywhere from weeks to months, according to SELF.
Hint: The healing process is simple.
Ears are self-healing
“The good news,” Chang tells SELF, “is that the vast majority of the time the body will heal the hole closed on its own. Depending on how big the hole is, it may close up completely in a week.” If you or your child has ear pain, visit a physician for an examination.
Hint: Children of this age get the most injuries.
No do-it-yourself moments
The study says most children who go to the hospital with cotton swab related ear injuries are 2 years old. Most of the injuries are caused by children holding the swab themselves. While a cotton swab isn’t a sharp object, they can still be dangerous to kids. Be sure to keep your box of Q Tips out of reach of any little ones.
Hint: Put the Q Tips down.
Seriously, don’t clean your kids’ ears.
Don’t let your child clean their ears and don’t clean their ears yourself. A whopping 73 percent of injuries are caused during attempts to clean the ear, according to the study. This reinforces the fact that cleaning your kids’ ears is dangerous. Simply, don’t do it.
Hint: Don’t let children play with cotton swabs.
10 percent of the injuries occur when kids play with cotton swabs. Again, keep cotton swabs on a high shelf in the bathroom to keep from having to make a visit to the ER. Another nine percent of injuries happen when a child falls or bumps into an object or another person. Adults, take the same advice. Don’t try multitasking and cleaning your ears at the same time.
Hint: Ear wax is good for your ears.
Why ear wax is good for you
“Moisturizing the ear canal and blocking out dirt and germs,” is the function of ear wax. Both good things keeping the ear functioning properly. “Contrary to public belief, cerelum [that’s the fancy word for ear wax] is beneficial for the ear, and the ear has a natural mechanism for self-cleaning,” researchers say.
Hint: Have a professional ear cleaning.
Have ear wax professionally removed
If wax buildup occurs, go see a doctor who can remove the wax properly. A good indicator of wax buildup is if your ear pops frequently from slight movements. Doctors use a long tube, almost like a vacuum attachment, to suck the wax from the eardrum. The cleaning process is over within a few minutes.
Hint: Clean your ears the right way.
The safest way to clean your ears
If you’re going to continue to clean your own ears, follow these steps. When wax buildup gets annoying, fill an ear syringe with water to flush out the ear. Chang tells SELF getting water stuck in your ear isn’t dangerous. For kids, the safest thing to do is to visit a physician, who can remove the wax.
Hint: This drugstore solution doesn’t work.
Don’t buy an ear candle
“Ear candling is dangerous […] and serves no legitimate purpose and there is no scientific evidence showing effectiveness for use,” Jackie Clark, PhD, Douglas L. Beck AuD, and Walter Kutz, MD, of The American Academy of Audiology, write. Don’t use them on children either. “Some ear candles are advertised for use with children (including babies), potentially placing them at great risk—with no known or documented benefit.”
Hint: Other uses for cotton swabs
Cotton swab uses
If you decide to quit cleaning your ears with a cotton swab, don’t immediately throw them all away. Cotton swabs have many uses. Fix a jammed zipper, remove debris from a computer keyboard or hair dryer, or perfect makeup with cotton swabs, according to Reader’s Digest. They can even be useful tools when crafting.
Hint: Remember this about ear cleaning.
The bottom line: ear cleaning is dangerous
At home ear cleaning is risky, especially for kids. Leave ears to their own devices until wax buildup interferes with hearing or causes pain. A cotton swab can actually push the wax deeper into the ear. Seek professional help with ear wax removal, instead of using at-home tools.
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