Skip to Content

For Kids With Earwax, Skip Cotton Swabs, Expert Urges

FRIDAY, March 9, 2018 -- Cotton swabs might seem like handy tools for clearing wax from children's ears, but they just might do more harm than good.

In fact, each year roughly 12,540 injuries to children's ears stem from the use of cotton swabs, according to a study cited by Dr. Jay Shah, who specializes in conditions that affect children's ears, nose and throat. He's a pediatric otolaryngologist with Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, part of the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center in Ohio.

The study analyzed more than two decades of data from U.S. emergency department and doctor visits that involved children's ear injuries related to cotton swab use.

Younger children are at higher risk for such injuries, the study found. Nearly 70 percent of the injuries were to children younger than 8 years old, and 40 percent were 3 years old or younger.

In most cases, the kids were trying to clean their own ears but instead caused damage, the study found. The damage included bleeding, pain, hearing loss and dizziness.

Cotton swabs can also cause earwax to become jammed or stuck in the ear, causing ringing in the ears, trouble hearing, itching and discomfort.

Having wax in your ears is normal and natural, according to Shah.

"Your body produces earwax as a way to clean the ear canal, as well as lubricate it and protect it from bacteria," he said in a hospital news release. "In general, ear canals do not need to be cleaned unless earwax starts building up near the outside of the ear. Even then, a damp cloth will usually do the trick."

If a cloth doesn't seem to be working, he said that other safe methods parents could try include earwax removal drops or baby oil.

"Please never use cotton swabs to clean the ears," he said. "Please leave it to a health professional to clean earwax if needed."

© 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: March 2018

Read this next

Lockdown Could Worsen Hearing Woes for U.S. Seniors

TUESDAY, Sept. 29, 2020 -- Isolation due to the pandemic and failure to get hearing aids checked has fueled anxiety, depression and more hearing loss for many seniors. "This has...

For Kids With Hearing Issues, Early Intervention Crucial to School Readiness

MONDAY, Sept. 28, 2020 -- When babies with hearing impairments get help very early in life, they are more likely to be "kindergarten-ready" when the time comes, a new study...

Hearing Persists at End of Life, Brain Waves of Hospice Patients Show

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 26, 2020 -- Even if they appear unresponsive, dying people may still be able to hear. That's the takeaway from a Canadian analysis of hospice patients in...