Cotton swabs (American English) or cotton buds (British English) are small handheld items that consist of one or two small wads of cotton wrapped around one or both ends of a short rod made of wood, rolled paper, or plastic.
The term "Q-tip" is often used as a genericized trademark for a cotton swab in the U.S. and Canada.They are most commonly used for cleaning the ear canal by removing earwax and dirt, although this use is not recommended by physicians.
Other uses for cotton swabs include first aid, cleaning, applying cosmetics, and crafts. Some countries have banned the plastic stemmed versions in favor of biodegradable alternatives over concerns about marine pollution.
The use of cotton swabs in the ear canal has no associated medical benefits and poses definite medical risks. Cerumen (ear wax) is a naturally occurring, normally extruded, product of the external auditory canal that protects the skin inside the ear, serves beneficial lubrication and cleaning functions, and provides some protection from bacteria, fungi, insects, and water.
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