Mum’s warning: Never use cotton swabs to clean children ears

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While they were there at the doctor’s office, Amanda promised herself that she will never again put anything in her daughter’s ear.

No one exactly knows why cleaning our ears with a cotton swab is so additive.

It’s a guilty pleasure that we can’t be too guilty about. After all, it’s habit that is beneficial to our personal hygiene.

However, cotton swabs can be dangerous if they’re misused, especially on children and infants. One mother found this the hard way.

In her Mommy Nearest blog post, Amanda Russo got the fright of her life when the cotton swab she used to clean her daughter’s ear came out bloody.

“I always use safety swabs when I clean my daughter’s ears—the ones with the funny shaped tip that can only go a tiny bit into the ear canal,” she says. “Except for the one time I didn’t.”

While her daughter was getting ready for bed one evening, Amanda realised that it’s been a few days since she last cleaned her daughter’s ears.

So while her daughter brushed her teeth, Amanda grabbed a cotton swab and began clean her ear.

“She startled at the unexpected touch and jerked her head toward me, then she suddenly screamed and jumped into my arms,” she recalls. “‘I’m just cleaning your ears,’” I told her calmly.”

That was when she noticed the blood.

Find out what happens to Amanda on the next page

It was just a tiny bit, but her daughter’s ear was bleeding, and Amanda thought it was all her fault.

Despite wanting to freak out, Amanda schooled her expression into one of composure. Then she carried her daughter into the living room and called their paediatrician.

“As the phone rang I thought: What if I ruptured her ear drum? Why else would it have bled? What if her hearing is permanently damaged because of me?” Amanda confesses.

“As if she sensed my worry she looked up at me and said in her sweet little voice, ‘I okay, mummy.’”

At the doctor's office, she was relieved to find out that her daughter’s eardrum was still intact, and there had neither been rupture nor damage.

“The doctor said I probably just dislodged some built up wax or scratched her ear canal with the swab,” she says. “It could have happened to anyone.”

But there at the doctor’s office, she promised herself she will never again put anything in her daughter’s ear.

Amanda adds: “We were given antibiotic drops, just to be safe, and we learned from our pediatrician that earwax serves a purpose: It protects the ear.

“The only part of the ear that needs to be cleaned can be done in the bath with a wash cloth. Inserting a swab can push wax further into the ear, irritate the canal, and cause infection.”

Walking away from the ordeal taught Amanda valuable lessons. Here are eight of them:

  • Only use a washcloth and only clean the outer ear. Earwax is there for a reason! Leave it alone.
  • If you must swab your child’s ears, use a safety swab and be gentle.
  • Protect your child’s ears from loud noise. Use earmuff style earplugs if you’re at an outdoor concert or any event where loud noise will occur.
  • If your child swims often, use a swim cap to prevent swimmers ear.
  • If your suspect your child has an ear infection, bring them to see a doctor right away.
Photo credit: BBC
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