Cotton Swabs Can Be Dangerous!

never-use-cotton-swabs

I frequently talk to people about their use of cotton swabs. If you read the outside of a Q-tips box, it says not for use inside the ear. However, I don’t think too many people read that.   For many people, using cotton swabs in their ears is a daily ritual to clean the water out of their ears and to get wax out. So why is that dangerous?

Well, as the picture above shows, at the extreme, you can go too deep and pierce your ear drum. If you ever have bleeding, pain and/or a gush of fluid come out of your ear, then you know you’ve gone too far! This could also cause vestibular and hearing problems. Most people want to remove wax from their ears because they feel itchy, sticky or they think their hearing may be affected. We have ear wax, or cerumen, for a reason. A certain amount of wax is meant to be in the ear canal and we need it there for protection. Removing too much of the wax can actually make your ear more itchy. Some people produce a lot of wax and want to remove it as it might be visible or be blocking their hearing. When you insert a cotton swab down in your ear to remove the wax, you more often push the wax further down the canal. Once down it dries out and becomes impacted there. This is more of a concern for blocking hearing and may require a visit to the Doctor for syringing it out.

So what are we supposed to do? You can continue to use cotton swabs on the external ear, but to clean the wax out of the ear, you are best to put a small amount of warm oil or warm water into the ear canal. It will lift the wax out of the canal harmlessly.

So remember what our Grandmothers used to say ” Nothing smaller than your elbow should go in your ear!”

About Susan Rankin

Susan Rankin has been practicing Physiotherapy since 1977. She did her undergraduate work at McGill University and post-graduate study at McMaster University. Susan is a certified Vestibular Therapist as designated by Emory University. In preparation for research on rehabilitation of the facial nerve, she was trained in the techniques of facial retraining by a therapist from Dr. Balliet’s clinic. She has been practicing the technique since 1986.
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