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Are Cotton Tip Applicators Safe for Kids?


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You’ve been told using cotton swabs to clean your child’s ears can be dangerous. But you do it anyway—and sometimes your kids use Q-tips to clean their ears themselves, too.

Here’s a good reason to toss those swabs for good: A new study suggests that using cotton tip applicators to clean your ears can damage the eardrum. These injuries can cause dizziness or even irreversible hearing loss.

Researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that about 263,000 children under 18 were treated in US emergency rooms for cotton tip applicator-related ear injuries. That’s about 34 kids every day or 12,500 a year. The study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, was based on ER visits from 1990 to 2010.

What should parents do? Clean your child’s ears by washing the external part of the ear with a cloth, advises the American Academy of Otolaryngology. Then put a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin or over-the-counter drops in the ear. Talk to your pediatrician if your child’s ear wax is still an issue.

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