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Cotton Swab-Related Ear Injuries Continue to Be Seen in the ER

WEDNESDAY, May 10, 2017 -- Thousands of children visit U.S. emergency departments every year for ear injuries caused by cotton swabs, according to a study published online May 1 in The Journal of Pediatrics.

An analysis of federal data found that 263,338 children were treated in emergency departments for ear injuries caused by cotton swabs over the 21-year period from 1990 through 2010.

Most of the injuries occurred while using cotton swabs to clean the ears (73.2 percent), the researchers found. The rest occurred while playing with cotton swabs (9.7 percent), or with children falling when they had cotton swabs in their ear (9.3 percent). The majority of injuries occurred when children were using cotton swabs by themselves (76.9 percent), followed by when a parent (15.8 percent) or sibling (6.2 percent) was using a cotton swab to clean a child's ear. About two-thirds of patients (67.4 percent) were younger than 8, and children under 3 accounted for 40.2 percent of all injuries.

The most common injuries were foreign body sensation (29.7 percent), tympanic membrane perforation (25.3 percent), and soft tissue injury (23.1 percent). Foreign body sensation was the most common injury among children aged 8 to 17, while tympanic membrane perforation was the most common among those younger than 8. Almost all patients (99.2 percent) were treated and released.

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Posted: May 2017