It was a familiar Sunday evening ritual in my house. After my mother got me and my siblings bathed, she’d line all four of us up and inspect our ears and fingernails. The nail clipper and cotton swabs were at the ready for anyone needing some maintenance. While she thought she was doing her part in keeping her children kempt and bestowing lessons on hygiene, it turns out my mother was ill-informed by today’s standards which say that cotton swabs should never be used to remove ear wax.
With that in mind, here’s what you should know about ear wax in children:
- Ear wax helps protect the ear drum and ear canal from water and germs. It also catches dirt and dust to keep them from damaging the ear drum.
- After ear wax is produced in the outer ear canal, it moves through the canal to the opening of the ear where it will fall out or be washed away while bathing.
- Never attempt to remove ear wax from your or your child’s ears. Our ears are only supposed to produce as much wax as is necessary.
- The opening of the ear can be wiped clean with a wet washcloth. Nothing should be stuck inside the ear.
- Do not try any over-the-counter ear wax removal products. They can be dangerous, so consult a doctor first.
- Some people do produce excess wax. This should be removed by a doctor if it interferes with hearing or causes discomfort.
- Ear wax removal by a doctor can be done in the office with little discomfort. If a child can’t stay still for the process, ear wax removal is sometimes done under general anesthesia in an operating room.
- Your doctor can also check your child’s ears for any infections. Antibiotic ear drops will be prescribed if needed.
If you believe your child has an excessive amount of ear wax, make an appointment with a pediatrician who can examine the ear and refer you to a specialist if necessary.