Study warns cotton swabs are sending thousands of kids to the ER

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CBS) – There’s a new study out showing just how many children are visiting hospital emergency rooms because of cotton swabs causing ear injuries.

Researchers with Nationwide Children’s Hospital shows that 263,000 children went to the ER between 1990 and 2010 for “cotton tip applicator related ear injuries.” That breaks down to 12,500 each year, or around 34 injuries every day, the organization says.

Doctors associated with the study say the idea that ear canals need to be cleaned with cotton swabs is a dangerous misconception.

“The ear canals are usually self-cleaning,” Dr. Kris Jatana of Ohio State University said in a statement. “Using cotton tip applicators to clean the ear canal not only pushes wax closer to the ear drum, but there is a significant risk of causing minor to severe injury to the ear.”

The study found that in 77 percent of cases, the child was injured while using the cotton swab without a parent. About 73 percent of the time they were using swabs to clean their ears, and in 9 percent of cases, children fell while they had them in their ears.

The three most common injuries were foreign body sensation, perforated ear drum, and soft tissue injury.

“These products may seem harmless, but this study shows how important it is that they not be used to clean ears,” Dr. Jatana said.

A warning on the box of popular cotton swab maker Q-Tips says swabs should not be inserted into the ear canal.

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