Earwax in children
Earwax In Children has some important jobs. It performs like a waterproof coating of the ear canal, protecting it and the eardrum from germs that can cause infections, traps dirt, dust, and other particles, preventing them from injuring or irritating the eardrum.
Why do ears make wax?
Wax is produced in the external ear canal, the area between the fleshy part of the ear on the outside of the head and the middle ear. The medical term for earwax is cerumen.
The wax has some important jobs.
- Acts as a waterproof lining of the ear canal, protecting it and the eardrum from germs that can cause infections.
- Traps dirt, dust, and other particles, preventing them from injuring or irritating the eardrum.
The wax makes its way through the outer ear canal to the opening of the ear. Then it either falls out or comes out during bathing. In most people, the outer ear canal makes earwax all the time, so the canal always has enough wax in it.
Is it necessary to remove earwax?
Earwax usually doesn’t need to be removed because it comes out on its own. Putting something in a child’s ears increases the risk of infection or damage to the ear canal or eardrum. Cotton swabs are useful for a variety of grooming needs, but should not be used to remove wax. In most cases, a regular bath is enough to keep it at healthy levels.
Although some people have more wax than others, in general, the ear produces as much wax as it needs. In rare cases, children’s ears produce too much wax. And sometimes the wax can build up and block the ear canal, especially when pushed with a finger, cotton swab, or another object. This is called “impaction.” If it affects your hearing or causes pain or discomfort, a doctor can remove it.
Parents, and children, should not attempt to remove earwax at home, even with remedies that promise to be safe and effective.
What can parents do?
If your child complains of ear discomfort and you see wax in the ear, it is okay to wipe the outside of the ear with a cloth. But don’t use a cotton swab, finger, or anything else to get into the ear. It could damage the delicate ear canal and eardrum, or pack the wax even more.
Symptoms of earwax build-up
It is thought that up to 10% of children have excessive earwax. Although having too much earwax may not cause any symptoms at all, in some cases, symptoms of excessive earwax might include:
- Hearing loss ranging from 5 to 40 decibels (dB)
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- A sensation of fullness in the ear canal
- Itchiness in the ear canal
- Ear pain (otalgia)
- Discharge or ear drainage (otorrhea)
- The odour from the ear canal
Causes of earwax in children
- Cotton swabs. Earwax build-up is usually due to the use of cotton swabs. They push the wax in and package it.
- Fingers Some children (perhaps 5%) normally produce more wax than others. It will usually come out if you don’t push it back with your fingers.
- Earplugs. Wearing earplugs of any kind can also push back the wax.
Treatment for earwax in children
How to do a routine ear cleaning
Your child’s outer ears can be cleaned regularly to remove dirt. The safest way to do this is to use a soft cloth.
Remember, “nothing smaller than your elbow” should be placed in your child’s ear. Items such as cotton swabs or hairpins should not be placed in the ear canal. Using these items in the ear canal will further build up the wax or damage the ear canal.
Peroxide cleaners and ear candles are not recommended for cleaning your child’s ears. Ear candles have no clear benefit and can be risky.
How to remove hardened wax
If you think your child has a build-up of hardened earwax, you can soften it with two to four drops of olive oil or mineral oil.
- Heat some oil to skin temperature by holding it in a small bowl in your hands.
- Use a dispenser to apply the oil to the affected ear.
- Have your child lie down with the affected ear facing up and leave the oil in the ear for a few minutes.
- When your child sits, the wax should come out.
- If the wax does not come out, your doctor may be able to remove it with a special instrument called a curette or with a stream of warm water.
How ear wax made
The skin on the outside of the ear has special glands that make ear wax. Once the wax is made, it slowly passes through the external ear canal to the ear opening. Most people make a little earwax each time. The ear canal should continuously have some wax in it.
The purpose of ear wax
The wax serves an important purpose. It builds up naturally in the ear canal from a mixture of secretions from sebaceous glands, sweat glands, and skin cells. It then works to help keep the ear canal clean, transporting dirt, dust, and other small particles with the wax as it naturally exits the ear canal.
Have your kids ever got sand in their ears after a day at the beach or playing in a sandbox? As the wax builds up and flows out of your child’s ear, that sand is likely to be washed away. Wax can also help protect and lubricate the ear canal and can even help prevent external ear infections (otitis externa or swimmer’s ear).
There are two different types of earwax: wet and dry. Dry wax is flakier and is tan or grey in colour, while wet wax is darker brown and sticky.
The type of earwax you might have has been assigned to a single gene, with the dry versus wet earwax trait often depending on your ethnic group. Asians and Native Americans are more likely to have dry earwax, whereas wet earwax is more common among those of African and European descent.
Earwax in children risk factors
Children with narrow ear canals, including many kids with Down syndrome, are also at risk for having too much earwax.
Other risk factors for building up excessive earwax include wearing hearing aids and regularly using earbuds, or in-ear headphones, which are a popular way to listen to music with an iPod, iPhone, and other portable devices.
Prevention for earwax in children
Avoid the buildup of earwax in your child. Earwax is a natural body secretion and there is no way to prevent our body from secreting this substance. One of the ways to prevent impacted earwax is to avoid using cotton swabs in the ear canal.
The best way to clean the outer ear is to clean the outer opening with a damp cloth folded over the index finger, without entering the ear canal.
Since the rate of ear wax production varies from one individual to another, it is advisable to have your child’s ear checked at least once a month. If the wax starts to build up, you can start using any of the available home remedies to soften the wax.
Before using ear drops, make sure your child’s ear does not have an infection or a perforated eardrum. If your child develops an earache or ear discharge after using ear drops, stop using them immediately, and consult a doctor.