Here's a really stupid idea: ear candles, fabric tubes soaked in beeswax or paraffin, inserted in the ear, and set on fire. The candles are being marketed as treatments for a variety of conditions, including ear wax buildup, sinus infections, hearing loss, headaches, colds, flu and sore throats. Astonishingly, some companies are even claiming the devices are appropriate for use on chldren.
Some ear candles are even offered as products that purify blood, strengthen the brain or even cure cancer.
The Food and Drug Administration and its Canadian counterpart, Health Canada, are saying, Wait a minute! The agencies are issuing import alerts about the products, warning the manufacturers, issuing injunctions and seizing shipments.
First of all, the FDA believes there is "no valid scientific evidence for any medical benefit" from their use, said Dr. Eric Mann of the agency's Division of Ophthalmic, Neurological, and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices.
Secondly, they are very hazardous. Among injuries that have been reported burns to the face, ear canal, eardrum and middle ear; injury to the ear from dripping wax; ears plugged by candle wax; bleeding; and puncture of the eardrum. Fires have also been reported. Moreover, people who use them often delay seeking treatment for their original illnesses. The two agencies believe that injuries caused by the devices are underreported.
The devices could be particularly hazardous for children, officials said, because they are likely to squirm, which increases the likelihood of injuries from fire, dripping wax and punctures.
-- Thomas H. Maugh II
An ear candle being burned, an indication of their size, and part of a box label showing a candle in use on an adult in a sitting position. Credit: FDA