May 22, 2018
Despite the warning on the packaging, Q-tips are still a significant cause of childhood injuries. An analysis of data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System from 1990 to 2010 found more than 260,000 children were treated for Q-tips related injuries.
Not surprisingly, almost three-quarters of the injuries occurred while cleaning ears. Following that, the other causes of injuries were playing, tripping, or falling. For children three years old and younger, the most common complaint was bleeding. Foreign body sensation was the most common complaint for children eight to seventeen years.
Nearly 30% of the children were diagnosed with a foreign body in the ear, followed by ruptured ear drum (25%), and soft tissue injury (23%). Rarely was the injury severe enough to require hospitalization.
Q-tips may have a role, but they shouldn’t be put into anyone’s ears. Even “careful” use may result in an injury and trip to the emergency department.