Q-tips are useful for so many things: cleaning in between your keyboard keys, touching up your eyeliner, cleaning excess nail polish off your fingers, and for most of us, and most importantly, cleaning inside our ears. If this sounds about right to you, you should be alarmed. Here's a little Q-tip history for everyone, in 1926, these 'Quality-tips' were named 'Baby Gays' according to their website. Obviously, as time went on, people realized what a ridiculous name that was and changed it to just 'Q-tips'. Imagine what a marketing nightmare it would have been to leave the original name in our present-day society. Would cotton swabs, by any other name, have been as popular? Apparently not, because we use the name-brand as the genericized trademark for an entire category of cotton swabs now.
Did you know that Q-tips were never intended to be used inside the ear? Many ear, nose and throat doctors (also known as otolaryngologists) are furious at their patients because the majority of people do use Q-tips inside the ear as unintended. There is a big warning label on every package of cotton swabs that says not to insert the tip into your ear. If you must use it on your ears, only use it on your outer ear, or the external cartilage. Why is it that we've never been told this by our parents or grandparents? That's because, apparently, we've been doing this wrong for almost a century and what's worse is that we have been passing on this terrible habit to our offspring. We use it to get all that yellow gunk, also known as earwax, out of our ears and to get water out after we shower, and we tell ourselves it's so that we don't become ill when we go outside in the cold after a hot shower. This solution is doing us more harm than good. If you want to use something to clean out your ear, use the corner of a washcloth or your towel.
You may be asking yourself what all the fuss is about, what's the harm in using these little cotton buds in your ear? Well, the problem arises when you blindly start to push it into your ear, and we all do this because we can't see what's going on inside our ear canal. Oftentimes, people rupture their eardrum by pushing the swab inside too deeply. Our earwax is an important part of our physiology because it is the protection provided for our inner ear to keep water out and keep bacterial infections at bay. Removing all of our earwax can prove very detrimental to our health in the long-run. When using cotton swabs, you are actually technically pushing much of the wax deeper into your ear canal, helping to create a painful plug. If you find that your ears are itchy and you need to relieve yourself by pushing something in there, try and control yourself and abstain from doing so because the more you scratch, the more you will itch and eventually just break the skin.
So keep your Q-tips around for cleaning your computer, video game cartridges, fans, or anything other than your poor ears. If you find that you have an ear blockage that is bothering you, gently pour warm water into your ear slowly but constantly with something like a Nettie pot and this will soften up the wax and allow it to slosh out. If you want to dry out your ears, use a towel or your hair dryer and hold it a safe distance away (your ear should not become overbearingly hot).