How to Clean Your Child's Ears
Ears may be a self-cleaning part of the body, but sometimes our children's ears get a bit gross. When should you actually clean your child's ears and how can you do so safely?
Should You Clean Your Child's Ears?
Earwax is a natural way for the body to protect and clean itself out. The ears produce wax (or cerumen) to trap dirt, dust, and other debris before it enters the ear canal and causes any problems. A reasonable amount of wax in your child's ears is perfectly normal and healthy.
However, there may also be times when the amount of wax present is excessive and/or your child is complaining about pressure, pain, or trouble hearing. With children, it's best to consult a pediatrician before trying to clean their ears out at home. This also allows for a medical professional to check the ears and ensure there is no damage, infection, or other concerns that may be contributing to your child's ear issues.
How to Safely Clean Your Child's Ears
If still choosing to clean your child's ears at home, here is the safest method to use to avoid causing injury.
Your child's doctor may prescribe medicinal ear drops if recurrent ear infections or blockages are a problem, but you can also use your own drops at home to aid in loosening up earwax and cleaning up your child's ears. Use a high-grade mineral oil, and use a dropper to place a few drops within your child's ears, allowing it to sit for a few moments and loosen up some of the wax.
Upon sitting up, help your child tilt their head to the side with a paper towel against the drop-filled ear to easily absorb and clean up any excess fluid that dumps out as they right themselves. Afterward, taking a warm shower or bath is ideal to further steam the wax and help it to come out more easily. If your kid is old enough to take a shower, this is by far the best option. However, if both of you simply want to go about your business without worrying about bathing or showering, this is perfectly fine as well, and the oil used will still encourage the wax to come out a bit more to ease up any pressure or blockages.
If your child is going with the showering part of the process, once they've finished, the ear wax will not be gone, but it should certainly be loosened up a lot more and making its way further out of their ears. Using a warm, wet cloth, you can then wipe away any of the excess wax.
Although cotton swabs cause more problems than they fix, you may also very carefully use one to clean off any visible gunk that the cloth is unable to reach. A word of caution, though: you'll need to be absolutely certain that you do not shove the cotton swab too deep and worsen the situation by impacting the earwax further down into your child's ear canal. Simply sweeping around the outer portions of the ear with a swab should, in most cases, be perfectly safe.
Above all, simply maintaining good hygiene and giving your child regular baths should be sufficient in managing most earwax concerns.
When to Call a Doctor
If your child is showing signs of impaction, experiencing significant pain or hearing loss, or having blood or green discharge coming from either of their ears, you will need to contact their pediatrician to resolve the situation immediately.
Additionally, if you've been cleaning your child's ears and using a cotton swab but managed to shove earwax back into their ear canals or push the swab too deeply into one of their ears in general, this can lead to serious damage that may result in infection or hearing loss, so prompt medical care is essential.
If recurrent swelling, pain, or infections of the ear are a problem for your child, you may also want to consult with their doctor to determine the cause of the issues. Putting anything into the ears can cause problems, but infections, swelling, and pressure may also be caused by certain allergies.
For more information on what to expect with your child's ears, check out our post on What Does My Child's Earwax Color Mean? If you're wanting to know how to safely clean your own ears as an adult, we also have a quick guide available here.