Plastic swabs: what alternatives to clean baby’s ears?

From 1 st  January 2020, plastic swabs will disappear from circulation. Extremely polluting, they are in fact part of the thousands of tonnes of waste that populate our landfills and our oceans. Wondering how to clean your little ones’ fragile ears now? Dr. Béatrice Letavernier, pediatrician, explains how to do it… in a much better way!

Summary

  1. Pediatricians don’t regret cotton swabs
  2. Zero waste alternatives
  3. Clean in moderation

First of all, let’s be precise: all cotton swabs will not disappear from your supermarket shelves: only those made of plastic, fully padded. Seemingly harmless, these are actually a real scourge for the planet. They alone represent 1.2 million tonnes of waste per year. Strewn on the beach soil, ingested by birds and fish, they constitute one of the most polluting waste there is, especially for the aquatic environment.

Pediatricians don’t regret cotton swabs

Within the framework of the law for the reconquest of biodiversity, nature and landscapes, promulgated in 2016, the Hexagon therefore decided to end their use. A decision that delights pediatricians and ORL: for many years already, most doctors have been hammering out that these sticks do too much damage. ” The problem is that a thorough cleaning, even a little brutal, is harmful for the ear , emphasizes Dr. Béatrice Letavernier, pediatrician in Paris. The stick repels the earwax inside the ear canal: the one – it builds up and forms, in the long run, plugs that interfere with hearing“And that’s not all! Bleeding, infections, perforation of the eardrum, more serious accidents are regular: cotton swabs would send 34 children to the emergency room every day *.” Cerumen is a natural secretion, far from being dirty, continues the pediatrician. It is important not to try to eliminate it systematically because it has lubricating and antiseptic properties and plays a role in protecting the hearing system against bacteria . ”

Zero waste alternatives

The fact remains that it is not always aesthetic to see our little ones walking around with ears that are a little too loaded… Not to mention the untimely scratching that this generates! So how do you maintain good ear hygiene without overdoing it? Different alternatives have already appeared on the market to replace plastic sticks. Cotton, bamboo or wooden cotton swabs, compostable and 100% biodegradable, offer a better option for the planet. These new materials continue to spread on the coast, but their degradation time is greatly reduced and above all, their ingestion by animals does not lead to perforation. ” But that does not solve the problem of harm to the ears!“, reminds Dr Letavernier. The same goes for metal earpicks or oriculis (small Japanese wooden utensils that can be reused for life): although zero waste, these solutions are also too aggressive for our children’s ears. The ear canal of very small children, and more specifically of babies, is much shorter than that of adults. The risk is therefore greater of piercing the eardrum if the object is pushed too far. In addition, these tools are a little too hard and your child, not really enjoying the session, could risk gesturing even more when using them.

Clean in moderation

So that it remains a moment of relaxation, pleasant for you and for him, take it easy! Clean the horn and the outside of the ear simply with a compress soaked in physiological saline rolled between your fingers or a cotton pad soaked in hot water. ” You can remove the visible excess of earwax with a small terry towel or handkerchief, notes Dr Letavernier . But do not clean the duct: it is self-cleaning!“. The best time to do it: after the bath. Heat and water vapor allow cerumen to liquefy: it is then easier to clean baby’s ear because the particles come off from them In this case, you just have to lay your little one down, turn his head to the side (show him a toy to make sure of his cooperation!) and then clean his ears, one after the other. Repeat this gesture 2 to 3 times a week maximum. Some people, children and adults, however produce more earwax than others. ” If the ear canal is very congested, get into the habit – after asking your doctor for advice – to use a soft hearing spray or an ear solution (Audi Baby® type) from time to time,to help the earwax naturally escape“, specifies the pediatrician. Instill a few drops in the duct, massage the ear, then turn your child over to the other side so that the liquid drains, wipe the ear.

Please note, it is not advisable to use these products in case of otitis, pain or in general, if your child regularly has problems with the ear or eardrum.

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