Here’s a Tip: No Q Tips

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Here’s a Tip: No Q Tips


We’ve all been there as parents – we see our child’s ears, peer inside and discover a world of sticky, icky earwax. It’s our first instinct to want to clean this out and use tools like cotton swabs or Q-tips to help clean as deep as possible. But, this could be dangerous not only for the health of your child’s ear, but also for its growth and development.

Earwax is actually an important function of the human body. It helps prevent the ear canal from drying out, keeps it clean and protects skin from infections. As new wax is formed within the ear canal, the old earwax is pushed out onto the outer rim of the ear. This process essentially means the ear is cleaning itself out.

When parents with good intentions use a Q-tip to clean this earwax, it could backfire by pushing old earwax back into the ear canal, where small hairs called cilia cannot remove it. This could become infected. Additionally, pushing a Q-tip too hard within the ear can cause damage to the tiny bones in children’s ears or even puncture their eardrum.

So before you grab the Q-tip or something even worse, like a motorized ear cleaning brush, check out some of our top tips to ensure a healthy ear.

  • Don’t use an ear irrigator or spray water into the ear to clean it – this could cause the eardrum to rupture.
  • Don’t rub too hard on the ear – excessive rubbing could cause irritation or infection.
  • Never allow children to play with Q-tips or swabs or place anything in their ears.
  • Instead, use a warm wash cloth to only clean the outer, visible part of the ear. Internal cleaning is not necessary.

  • If your child is showing signs of hearing strain or excessive buildup of wax, contact your physician.

    About Dr. Patterson

    Dr. Margaret Patterson is a Board Certified pediatrician at Pediatric Medical Center. Click here to make an appointment with Dr. Patterson, or call (225) 769-2003.

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