I've heard that using a cotton swab to remove my child's earwax isn't a good idea. Is this true? And, if so, how can I clean my child's ears safely?
That's true — it's not a good idea to stick anything into a child's ears. Doing so raises the risk of contracting an infection or permanently damaging eardrums and hearing. Regular bathing should be enough to keep earwax at normal levels.
The waxy substance (called cerumen) that the ears make performs important functions. It provides a coating for the skin lining the ear canal, which helps keep the canal skin from getting too wet or dry, which helps prevent irritation or infection.
It also traps dirt, dust, and other particles, keeping them from injuring or irritating the eardrum. While some people have more earwax than others — just as some people tend to sweat more than others — in general, the ear makes just as much wax as it needs.
In some cases, a hardened lump of wax can form in the canal, which can make it difficult to hear in that ear or even trap bacteria and cause an infection. If this happens, don't stick anything inside the ear to try to remove the wax yourself. Doing so could cause permanent hearing damage.
If your child needs to have earwax removed, a medical professional should remove it in an office or clinical setting. For hearing problems or pain or irritation in or near the ears, talk with your doctor, who can examine your child to determine the cause.
And while earwax remedies are sold in stores, it's important not to use anything inside a child's ears unless told to do so by a doctor.
Reviewed by: Patrick Barth, MD
Date reviewed: June 2011
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Although we can't reply personally, you may see your question posted to this page in the future. If you're looking for medical advice, a diagnosis, or treatment, consult your doctor or other qualified medical professional. If this is an emergency, contact emergency services in your area.
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|American Academy of Audiology The American Academy of Audiology, the world's largest professional organization of, by and for more than 10,000 audiologists, is dedicated to providing quality hearing care to the public.|
|Middle Ear Infections Ear infections are common among kids and, often, painful. Find out what causes them and how they're treated.|
|Hearing Evaluation in Children Hearing problems can be treated if they're caught early, so it's important to get your child's hearing screened early and evaluated regularly.|
|Hearing Impairment Hearing impairment occurs when there's a problem with or damage to one or more parts of the ear. The degree of impairment can vary widely. Find out its causes and what can be done to help correct it.|
|What's Earwax? Why do our ears make earwax? Find out in this article for kids.|
|Swimmer's Ear You swam! You splashed! And now you have it: swimmer's ear.|
|Swimmer's Ear (External Otitis) External otitis (swimmer's ear) is an infection of the ear canal that can be caused by different types of bacteria or fungi. Find out how to prevent or treat it.|
|Swimmer's Ear (Otitis Externa) Swimmer's ear is an infection of the ear canal caused by many types of bacteria or fungi. Find out how to prevent it.|
|Taking Care of Your Ears How do you take care of your ears? Find out in this article for kids.|
|Quiz: Ears Take this quiz about your ears.|
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|What Is an Ear Infection? A middle ear infection happens when germs like bacteria and viruses get in your middle ear and cause trouble. Read this article to find out more.|
|Ear Injuries Ear injuries not only can affect a child's hearing, but sense of balance, too. That's because our ears also help keep us steady on our feet.|
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