When we’re children first learning about hygiene, one of the first things we learn is that it’s important to clean the parts of ourselves we can’t see. Number one? The proverbial “behind the ears”— and, if you’re like most people, in your ears, too. And chances are, you used Q-tips to get the job done.
Just one problem with this lifelong habit: putting a cotton swab into your ear in the hopes of cleaning out that pesky, hearing-impairing earwax is just about one of the worst things we can possibly do for our health. Seriously. If there’s one thing you can take away from our site today, it’s this:
Stop putting Q-tips and other cotton swabs in your ear! In fact, stop trying to clean out earwax in general!
Granted, this warning probably isn’t new to you. If you’ve paid any attention to the box of Q-tips itself, in fact, you’ve probably notice this warning directly from the manufacturer
WARNING: DO NOT INSERT SWAB INTO EAR CANAL. ENTERING THE EAR CANAL COULD CAUSE INJURY. IF USED TO CLEAN EARS, STROKE SWAB GENTLY AROUND THE OUTER SURFACE OF THE EAR ONLY. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.
Yes, those all-caps are necessary. Believe it or not, putting a cotton swab – of any brand – directly into your ear can cause serious damage. As Dr. Stephen Rothstein, an ear-nose-and-throat (ENT) specialist at NYU Medical Center, told Reader’s Digest, “Never put anything smaller than an elbow in your ear.”
Putting anything smaller than an elbow into your ear is dangerous because our ears are such delicate instruments. If you stick a cotton swab or other thin materials into it, you run the risk of irritating the sensitive skin, causing the ear canal to bleed, or worst of all, puncturing your eardrum. In fact, cotton swab accidents are a major cause of ear-related emergency room visits in the United States, as a 2014 study in the medical journal of otolaryngology The Laryngoscope shows.
Watch the video on THE NEXT PAGE ->