Guest Post by Katy Fleming, MA, LPC, BSN, RN
When earwax builds up, it causes uncomfortable pain in our little one’s ears.
About 10% of children struggle with earwax blockage, however, this wax has an important role in our ears.
Help keep your kids’ ears clean and healthy with this ultimate guide to earwax.
Everything Parents Need to Know About Earwax
There are several myths about earwax from how to keep our ears clean to the purpose of earwax.
Digging for wax or swabbing your kiddos’ ears could cause serious damage and ear pain. Learn more about this misunderstood yet important wax.
Why Do We Need Earwax?
Although gross at times, this sticky substance holds key roles in our ear canal:
- Protection against germs
- Preventing dirt and other particles from damaging the eardrum
- Acts as a waterproof lining
- Removes dead skin cells
- Moisturizes the ear canal
Glands produce earwax in the outer ear canal, which naturally travels out of the ear. When bathing or swimming, earwax will shed on its own.
This wax plays a vital part in fighting infections and protecting the ears from debris.
Even though it may not seem like it, your kiddos need earwax!
What Should Earwax Look Like?
Colors often provide important clues in the medical world. Although the color of healthy earwax varies, some colors may indicate a problem.
When your ear initially produces wax, it’s typically soft and yellowish. It may appear white or orange, as well.
As the earwax hardens, it turns brown or a dark orange. Streaks of red may indicate an injury to the ear canal.
Black earwax may result from buildup. Green wax often indicates infection
Contact your pediatrician when your child has green, black, or red earwax especially if accompanied with other symptoms.
Should We Clean Our Ears?
The short answer: no!
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, your ears will naturally clear out earwax and typically require no further maintenance.
Never use cotton swabs to remove ear wax. It pushes the wax further into the ear canal and can lead to buildup.
Vacuum kits and other over-the-counter wax removals may lead to damage to the ear canal.
Some do benefit from cleaning out their ears, such as people with hearing aids.
It’s important to discuss ear wax prevention with your pediatrician or ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) before attempting to clean your little ones’ ears.
What are the Symptoms of Buildup?
Some kiddos produce more earwax than others, however, our ears rarely create excessive wax.
When buildup occurs, it’s usually due to pushing the wax further into the ear with cotton swabs, ear plugs, or small fingers.
Symptoms of earwax buildup include:
- Ear pain (our little ones may tug on their ears)
- Difficulty hearing
- Itchy inside of the ear
- Ringing in the ears
Kids have narrow ear canals and some are more prone to wax buildup. Those with a history of ear infections may struggle more with excessive ear wax.
Excessive earwax may lead to an odor and discharge coming from the ear, as well.
How to Treat Earwax Buildup
You’ll see countless over-the-counter products promising to safely clean your ears. It’s important to speak with your pediatrician before trying any type of treatment at home.
If you can see ear wax building up, you can wipe your child’s outer ear with a washcloth. Never stick anything inside their ear including cotton swabs and fingers.
If buildup needs treatment, your pediatrician or ENT may use drops to soften and break down the wax.
Medical professionals may use irrigation and special tools. Never try anything at home without discussing it with your doctor first!
Check out Dr. Noze Best founder and pediatric ENT, Dr. Stephen Goudy, review an interesting wax cleaning!
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- 5 Tips For Remembering to Administer Medication
- Here's the Right Way to Use Nasal Spray (And Why Most People Use it Wrong)
For most children and adults, our ears are self-cleaning and don’t require any maintenance.
Earwax is important for preventing infection and protecting the ears. The buildup is typically caused by cotton swabs, fingers, ear plugs, and other objects going into the ear canal.
Keep cotton swabs out of your kiddos’ ears as they cause more damage and wax buildup.
Contact the pediatrician if your child has ear pain, difficulty hearing, dizziness, or appears sick.
As a licensed counselor and registered nurse, Katy approaches freelance writing with years of experience and a unique perspective. Alongside her partner, Katy loves to travel the world and embrace other cultures from volcanoes in Iceland to villages in India.
A clear nose means better sleep.
The Nozebot is a battery-powered suction device designed to clear nasal congestion in babies and children.