We all know that we're not supposed to stick things in our ear, but we're also told that ear wax is icky and should be removed post-haste. This contradictory set of priorities might explain why thousands of kids show up at the hospital each year with swab-related ear injuries.
The National Children's Hospital study, published in the The Journal of Pediatrics, found that over a 21-year-period from 1990 to 2010, 263,000 children — ages 18 and younger — were treated in emergency rooms for cotton-tip related ear injuries. That works out to 12,500 annual visits, or 34 visits every day.
According to the report — compiled using data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System — the majority of these injuries (about 73% ) occurred as a result of using cotton tip applicators to clean the ears.
Another 10% of injuries occurred when children were playing with the applicators, and 9% when they fell with he cotton tip applicator in their ears.
"The two biggest misconceptions I hear as an otolaryngologist are that the ear canals need to be cleaned in the home setting, and that cotton tip applicators should be used to clean them; both of those are incorrect," co-author of the study, Dr. Kris Jatana said in a statement, noting that ear canals are typically self-cleaning.