The Quebec coroner's office says cotton swab manufacturers should warn consumers about putting their product in their ears after a man died from related complications.
"I think we should go one step further, and maybe have a pictogram on the package, with a little ear and a red X mark," Quebec coroner Dr. Jacques Ramsay suggested.
In a report released Tuesday, Ramsay said using a cotton swab even once to clean inside ears can lead to fatal consequences.
Ramsay investigated the death of Montreal resident Daniel St-Pierre, who died in March 2007, two days after he accidentally pierced his eardrum with a cotton swab.
St-Pierre, 43, died of meningitis-induced intracranial complications caused by a bacterial ear infection that he developed after accidentally piercing his eardrum with a cotton swab while trying to treat a painful earache.
While the medical community is aware of dangers presented by cotton swabs, ordinary people often aren't, Ramsay said.
The best way to clean inside one's ear is with the little finger, he said.