Should you clean your child’s ears?

By admin
22 May 2014

Removing earwax from your child’s ears with a cotton bud has long been considered part of the Sunday-night bath routine in many households. But is this good basic hygiene or are you interfering with a highly effective bodily function and putting your child’s health at risk?

What exactly is earwax?

Earwax is made up of shed skin, long-chain fatty acids, cholesterol and alcohols and is something of a wonder-worker in the human body. It has protective properties and provides an important barrier in order to protect the sensitive lining of the ear canal against water. Much the same as mucous in the nose, earwax is a multipurpose fluid protecting the functions of the ear.

What happens to the ear when wax is removed?

The inner ear canal is left exposed to harmful bacteria when earwax is removed. This makes your child more susceptible to infections.

Why you should step away from the ear buds

Earwax works its way out of the body naturally, mostly when we chew. The movement of the jaw dislodges the wax and it makes its way out of our ear canal slowly but surely. These tiny bits of wax then get washed away when we bathe. Small instruments such as cotton buds may serve only to force earwax further into the ear canal and harm the eardrum. It seems the old adage is true: “Never put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear.”

When is too much of a good thing bad?

If your child struggles with loss of hearing, earache or constant ear infections there’s a possibility that perhaps their ears are producing too much wax. However, in this instance your child will need to see a doctor who will make a diagnosis and remove any excess earwax. This is a simple enough procedure which, under normal circumstances, is done in the doctor’s office.

What about home remedies?

Given the inner ear is so delicate, it really is best to steer clear of home remedies and consult a doctor should you have any questions or concerns about your child’s ear or hearing.

-Lindsay de Freitas

Sources: realclearscience.com, askdrsears.com, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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