Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have found that more than 263,000 children between 1990 and 2010 were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for injuries to their ears caused by cotton tip applicators.
While many cotton swab products have warning labels, people continue to put them inside of their ear canals. This is a large problem that causes a lot of bodily harm and is especially prevalent in younger children.
“It’s concerning that while these products have been around for almost 100 years and many of the manufacturers put warning labels on the products stating to not use them in the ear canal, we are still seeing a significant number of injuries in children using them for the purpose of cleaning their ear canal,” said lead author Kris Jatana, an associate professor at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, according to Live Science.
Cotton swabs have been around since the early 1920’s, and they first received warning labels telling consumers not to put the applicators in their ears in the 1970’s. However, they continue to be ignored.
According to the study, roughly 12,500 kids — 34 every day — go into emergency rooms each year because of cotton swabs. When misused, the applicators can cause a wide range of problems, including impacted wax, perforations of the eardrum, and damage to hearing bones.
To make this discovery, the team analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which is maintained by the government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission. They found that, over the past 21 years, the swabs mostly led to the presence of a foreign body in the ear and eardrum perforation. Such problems can lead to dizziness, infection, and irreversible hearing loss.
Children under the age of eight accounted for two-thirds of total injuries, suggesting they are using the swabs without adult supervision. In addition, the team also found that many adults stress the importance of ear cleaning. However, that can lead to problems because, unlike teeth, the ear is self-cleaning and earwax has many protective properties.
“The two biggest misconceptions I hear as an otolaryngologist are that the ear canals need to be cleaned in the home setting, and that cotton tip applicators should be used to clean them; both of those are incorrect,” said Jatana, according to Fox News.
The team hopes their new research will help people understand the risks of sticking swabs in their ear canals and lower the number of children sent to the hospital each year.
The report appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Pediatrics