Doctors Warn Parents To Stop Cleaning Kids’ Ears With Cotton Swabs

How do you clean your ears?

If you are like most people, you probably do so with a cotton swab. And if you are a parent, you probably clean your children’s ears with cotton swabs as well.

But doctors and other medical professionals are now urging parents to stop this practice, as it could be dangerous. In fact, recent research published in The Journal of Pediatrics shows that using cotton swabs has led to hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits for children. In fact, injuries to children’s ears from cotton swab usage result in about 34 ER visits a day.


Well, it turns out that doctors have been warning people not to stick cotton swabs in their ears for decades now, but we just aren’t listening. In fact, 90 percent of people say that ears should be cleaned regularly, and most of us turn to Q-tips to get that squeaky-clean feeling.

But experts say that the ears are actually “self-cleaning,” and that inserting a cotton swab in there can do much more harm than good. First of all, it’s important to realize that ear wax is a good thing. Yep. Really. It might sound gross, but ear wax is actually very beneficial. Our body makes ear wax to help prevent foreign bodies from getting into our bodies, whether we are talking about water from a swimming pool, dirt or even (ick!) bugs.


Additionally, even slight pressure can puncture your ear drum. In fact, punctured ear drums as a result of ear-cleaning is a common issue, and it can lead to a whole host of complications, including ringing or buzzing in the ear, dizziness, nausea and vomiting and even hearing loss. Sounds pretty bad, right? Now just imagine being a parent dealing with a toddler with those symptoms! Eeek.

So what should parents do instead? First, keep the Q-tips away from your kids, as many ER visits are a result of kids trying to clean their own ears with cotton swabs. Second, do not use cotton swabs in your kids’ ears. If ear wax build-up is an issue, then talk to your pediatrician about other options such as wax-softening drops or ear irrigation, which are safe ways to remove excess ear wax without the risk of serious injury.

You may clean the outside of your child’s ear canal with a warm washcloth if you see external buildup, but you don’t need to stick the washcloth inside the ear. A drop or two of olive oil can also soften hardened ear wax, but beyond that, leave the ear cleaning to your child’s pediatrician, if it is required at all—which it probably won’t be, as it turns out that our ears are incredibly self-sufficient.

Good to know, and now you can save some money since you won’t be buying so many Q-tips!