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Are Q-Tips Safe?

Are Q-Tips SafeNaturally, cleaning your ears is important, not just for proper hearing, but also for preventing infection.  Because the ear canal is susceptible to all manner of dirt, bacteria, and viruses that can wreak havoc with your health, it’s vital to keep the areas inside the ear clean and free of debris. But it’s not enough just to clean your ears. It’s also important to keep them free from moisture. If you’re a swimmer, you likely know about a medical condition known as swim ear or swimmer’s ear, which is an infection caused by excessive moisture within the outer ear canal. Unfortunately, though, swimmers aren’t the only ones who can get swim ear. In fact, anyone can contract it, and of swim ear causes there are many, including showering, ear buds, and even the use of Q-Tips. Swim ear drops are effective at helping to clear up swimmer’s ear infections, but isn’t it better not to get an infection in the first place? That’s why it’s important to know the right way to clean your ears and the wrong way. Though Q-tips and other cotton swab products are effective and useful for other endeavors, healthcare professionals strongly recommend against their use for the cleaning of the ear canal.

Why not Q-Tips?

Because they need to be open to the world, your ears are also open to infections such as swimmer’s ear. The Mayo Clinic’s website defines swimmer’s ear as an infection in the outer ear canal, which is the part of the ear’s structure that runs from the eardrum to the outside of the head. This infection typically is caused by bacteria that grow within the ear due to excess moisture. So why shouldn’t you use Q-Tips or other cotton swab products to clean your ears? After all, if you’ve got an overabundance of ear wax in your ear and it’s clogging your ability to hear, you need to get that ear wax cleared out somehow, right? Of course, but the problem with cleaning your ears with Q-Tips is that they will only push the ear wax further into your ear canal, making the problem much worse. They can also scratch your ear canal, causing bacteria to get inside more easily. There is a better way to clean your ears.

How to clean your ears properly

Following are a few ear-cleaning methods that are not only far more effective than digging around in your ears with a Q-Tip; they also won’t cause bleeding or scratching within the ear canal like using Q-Tips can.

Soap, water, and a blow dryer

Everybody has moisture in their ears, but when it gets excessive, that’s when you can have problems. If you have too much moisture in your ears, consider drying them with, yes, a blow dryer. It can also be effective at helping you clean out your ears after using good old soap and water. After you clean out your ears with soap and water, tilt your head and shake out the excess moisture. Follow this by setting your blow dryer on a low setting that won’t burn you. Hold it about a foot away from your ear to dry out excess moisture.

Olive, baby, or garlic oil

You can use any of these oils for cleaning out your ears. First, warm a few drops of the oil. Next, place the warmed drops inside the affected ear canal. Cover the ear with a cotton ball to prevent any oil from dripping out before it’s done its job. Keep it in for 20 minutes to a half hour. Bonus:  Using garlic oil can also help to boost your immune system!

Most ear, nose, and throat doctors (otherwise known as otolaryngologists) will tell you… never, ever use Q-Tips to clean out your ears. Your ear canal always contains ear wax, and that’s a good thing. Ear wax is tasked with a number of very important jobs. These include protecting, as well as moisturizing, the skin of the ear canal. For, without enough moisture within the canal, your ears would be awfully dry and itchy all the time. But there is such a thing as having too much moisture within the ear canal, which is what causes swimmer’s ear. Anyone can get swimmer’s ear, which is why it’s good to always have swim ear drops on hand. But if you’re talking keeping them clean and free of infection, it’s best to keep Q-Tips far away from your ear canals.