Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a thick, sticky liquid that has a very important job – to trap anything that flies, crawls, or is blown into the ear canal, such as dirt, pollen, tiny insects and bacteria, and keep them from going further in the ear, where they can cause damage. It also contains special chemicals that maintain the ear canal’s acid balance and fight infections inside the ear canal. So earwax is not a bad thing – its job is actually to keep your ears clean.
Earwax isn’t really “wax” like the kind in a candle (paraffin) -- it is actually closer to the oil that is produced by glands in the skin on your body. Earwax is produced by similar glands that are located in the ear canal.
Never stick a cotton swab, finger or anything else in your child’s ear to remove earwax (and be sure to tell your children to never stick anything in their ears). Because the ear canal and eardrum are delicate, they can be damaged if something is put in them. And if you poke around in the ear with a cotton swab, you can push the wax and pack it further back in the ear. This can cause blockage in the ear, damage the eardrum, or scratch the delicate skin in the ear canal, which can lead to infection. Plus, if you have a small child, they may one day find a cotton swab lying around and try to stick it in their ear or in the ear of a brother or sister.
Blockage of the ear canal is known as impaction. An impaction occurs when several layers of ear wax have been pushed back into the ear. The inner ear does not have oil glands like the skin in the ear canal does, and the wax will harden. A person with an impaction may have pain, dizziness, ringing in the ears, reduced hearing, and may feel that their ears have been plugged. If your child has these symptoms, call your doctor.
Some people’s ears produce extra wax or even hard wax. Let your child’s doctor know if you think his or her ears produce more wax or if their earwax seems especially hard. The doctor may prescribe a medicine to soften the wax, squirt warm water into the child’s ear to soften the wax, suction the wax out, remove the wax with a special medical tool, or send your child to an Ear specialist.
It’s impossible to reduce the amount of earwax that your child produces, but you can reduce wax build-up bye using wax-softening drops, avoiding using things such as cotton swabs to clean the ear, telling your child to not put anything in your child’s ear, and limiting ear cleaning to the outer ear only.