Cleaning out your ear wax with a cotton bud? What is the big deal? (Read this and then toss out the Q-tips for ever.)

This news story was recently shared via Facebook. Thank goodness. I mean, of course I know that you should never put anything in your ear that’s smaller than your elbow. But how to get that ear wax out?

A recent medical journal case report shared  the story of a 31 year old man suffering ear pain and hearing loss for five years, difficulty remembering names, confusion, drowsiness, headaches, nausea, vomiting and eventually a seizure which brought him to hospital. The cause, revealed after an MRI and CT scan, then exploratory surgery of his ear canal, was a piece of cotton – part of a cotton swab that had been left behind – that caused necrotizing external otitis (NEO.)

The case study’s authors conclude: “The use of cotton buds inside ears is common and has long been recognised to cause several complications including trauma, tympanic membrane perforation, impacted earwax, infection and retention of the cotton bud. The present case further reiterates the dangers of cotton bud use.”

A recent study found that around 34 children every day were treated in U.S. hospitals for injuries related to cotton swabs.

According to a guide from SickKids Hospital in Toronto, “nothing smaller than your elbow” should go in your ear, since cotton swabs just push the wax in further and pack it tighter. A soft washcloth to wipe the outside.

Dr Nick Fisher joined the online chat to offer some Facebook medical advice, for those wanting to clean their ears:

1 drop of olive oil into both ears daily for a week. If no improvement, come see the doctor for irrigation. Maintenance is 1 drop of olive oil per week. Helps the wax stay soft and the self cleaning mechanism of the external auditory canal to work. Q-tips act like a ram rod, pushing wax deeper into the ear. They also irritate the lining of the ear canal, causing more wax to form.



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