Cleaning kids' ears can be dangerous

Cleaning kids' ears can be dangerous

Do you clean your kids ears with cotton swabs?

I make a point of doing it from time to time. It sounds gross, but we like seeing how much wax comes out of their ears. Some days, it's actually quite fascinating. And since their ears tend to be waxy, cleaning them seemed to be a good idea.

Or so I thought . . .

A new study published recently in the Journal of Pediatrics suggests I've been doing it all wrong. Experts say you aren't supposed to clean your kids ears at all. That's because ear canals are usually self-cleaning, and using cotton swabs only pushes wax closer to the ear drum.

You can also damage the ear. In fact, U.S. data indicates that 12,500 children are treated in emergency rooms for cotton-swab-related ear injuries each year. That's about 34 injuries a day just from ear cleaning.

Seventy-three percent of the injuries treated in the E.R. took place while cleaning the ears; 10 percent happened while playing with applications. Nine percent of kids were injured when they fell with swabs in their ear.

It seems that if you're going to clean a child's ear, don't leave the task to children. Most injuries (77 percent) occurred when children cleaned their own ears. Six percent happened when a sibling helped clean a child's ear. Even still, parents were responsible for 16 percent of the injuries. The majority of patients were under age eight while a significant majority were under three.

Think a soft cotton tip can't cause serious enough damage to worry? Think again. Perforated ear drums were the most common type of injury to kids under eight. Soft tissue injuries were also reported. When you damage an ear—either the hearing bones or inner ear—it can cause dizziness, issues with balance and even permanent hearing loss.

I'm not sure I'll be so keen to clean my kids' ears after this. I'm not even sure I'll make cleaning my ears part of my routine. It no longer seems like such a fun idea.

Do you clean your children's ears? Have you ever had an injury?


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