Parents have been asking me an earful of questions about their child having so much earwax. Let me lend an ear and some advice on this problem.
Earwax: Yes, it has a purpose
Earwax, though not the most pleasant thing to look at, is actually there for a purpose. Glands in the outer ear canal produce the wax, which protects the eardrum and ear canal. It prevents germs from getting in to cause infection, or dust and dirt to get in and irritate the eardrum.
Earwax also provides a waterproof coating for the inside of the ear, keeping the skin moist and not dry and itchy.
What should you do about everyday earwax? Absolutely nothing!
As your body produces earwax, it usually migrates to the outer opening of the ear. This is where it naturally falls out. Regular bathing and showering can remove it, too.
What should you do if the earwax is excessive? Again, absolutely nothing, unless your child says they are having trouble hearing or have pain due to their earwax. (Both of which are rare.) If this is the case, your child’s health care professional can remove the wax in a safe, painless way.
If you see earwax sitting there on the edge of the ear, you can try to wipe the outside of the ear with a damp washcloth. Don’t use a cotton swab or finger, which can pack the wax in further or cause infection or ear damage.
Other parents may want to try over-the-counter treatments, such as hydrogen peroxide drops, for softening earwax. Please talk to your child’s health care professional first to make sure these are safe for your child.
If your child experiences ear pain, don’t just blame it on ear wax. Have those ears checked for an infection. There’s always a chance they’ve stuck something in their ear, too.
Hopefully tips like these will make these common earwax problems be “ear” today and gone tomorrow.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and MyNBC 5, or visit the “First with Kids” video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/