These are the reasons why you shouldn’t use cotton swaps


Also known as cotton swabs, the flexible rods can be a great ease when cleaning your ears. However, you need to know the risks of using this object for cleaning. That's because, recently, a man was diagnosed with a serious infection and potentially missing the skull . And that’s why we’re going to explain why you shouldn’t use cotton swabs.

Invented in 1920, the product was invented by Leo Gersternzang, a Pole who sought to clean his daughter's ear without hurting herself. So he refined the method his wife used, a wooden toothpick with a cotton pad on the end. However, years later, in 2018, the European Union even banned the use of swabs. However, that decision would be exclusively to reduce marine pollution.

Think twice before using cotton swabs

In 2019, a medical report detailed a peculiar case for a 31-year-old man who was healthy. That way, he was taken to the hospital's emergency department in an ambulance after collapsing. Upon arriving at the hospital, he suffered seizures and physical examinations showed he was confused. In addition, he also showed signs that he was sleepy and with an altered state of consciousness.

He later revealed that he experienced severe headaches and nausea for several days. In that time, he tried to remember things that could have caused it, but he didn't remember anything. Thus, he just stated that he had "intermittent pain in his left ear and felt a hearing loss" in the past five years.

When doctors performed a CT scan of the man's skull, they discovered abscesses filled with pus. To make matters worse, all of this was located in tissue very close to his brain . In addition, the test also revealed the culprit behind the infection, and he calls it Pseudomonas aeruginosa , a dangerous pathogen that causes several diseases. 

A cotton swab can be behind all this   

A physical examination of the man's ear canal suggested the most likely answer, to identify how this bacteria got into the man's skull. According to doctors, a fragment of a cotton swab would have been stuck on the man's head for supposedly years. Thus, the risk of infections developing from foreign bodies lodged within us is immense. Infections such as otitis externa, a serious infection known as 'swimmer's ear', are common.

Fortunately, the patient was able to remove what was left of the swab, and with a large amount of antibiotics , he was able to treat his infection over eight weeks. With that, serious neurological problems could be corrected. But, according to doctors, the most important lesson we can learn from all this is the fact that he stopped using cotton swabs to clean his ears.

Although the lesson is quite hard, it was necessary to show a risk that we are all taking. Just as the use of a cotton swab is common, its risk is also known. Among the risks of the practice , there are traumas, perforation of the tympanic membrane, affected wax, infections and retention of the swab.


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