What Does My Child's Earwax Color Mean?
Updated: Mar 18, 2022
All of us have ear wax, but do you ever wonder what the different colors mean? Here is a guide to learn what's normal and when you should consult a doctor.
Common Earwax Colors
Colors aside, there are two main types of earwax a person may have: wet or dry. This will vary based on genetics, and either type is perfectly normal.
Wet earwax is typically light, waxy, and thin, but it may also be more clumped and waxy, similar to a "nose boogie." For those who have dry earwax, this will be more flakey and similar to having dry skin but in larger clumps. Again, though, both types are perfectly normal.
As for the colors one may see in earwax, these usually range from darker shades of brown to light yellows. What primarily determines the color is how fresh or old the wax is and how much dirt and debris has accumulated within the wax.
Here are some of the colors you may find when cleaning your own ears or cleaning the ears of your child:
Off-white or light yellow
Orange and brown, mixed
Gray or black
If your child has something unusual like blue or purple wax in their ears, you can blame that on the lingering marker still on their hands. The body likely won't be producing anything nor trapping anything with those colors without a bit of messy-child assistance.
What Affects the Color of Earwax?
The color of earwax is mostly determined by how old or fresh the wax is and the amount of dirt and debris that's trapped. Fresher ear wax that hasn't accumulated much dirt or dust will generally be quite thin in consistency and light in color. Older wax with more gunk trapped in it will be significantly darker. Neither of these is unhealthy to find, and both colors (as well as the colors in between these shades) are normal and healthy.
However, if your child has green wax or discharge from their ears, this is evidence of an infection, and it's best to consult a doctor for medical treatment. Ear infections can be quite serious, especially in young children, so it's wise to get this issue treated as soon as possible.
Gray and black ear wax may be startling, especially since it is far more common in adults than children. However, there is often nothing wrong with it, and it is generally not a cause for concern.
If your child appears to have any streaks of red in their wax, it's possible that they may have somehow scratched the inside of their ear or received some other type of damage that may be causing bleeding, so this will warrant a trip to the pediatrician as well.
When to Call a Doctor
Red and green are your warning colors for when it's time to call a doctor about your child's ear wax. Whether it's damage or an infection, both of these require medical care.
If your child is experiencing a fever along with green discharge, it's essential that you call your child's doctor as soon as possible.
Additionally, if your child is complaining of pain in their ears, this may also be a sign of infection or it may also be due to blockage from when the earwax becomes trapped or has been pushed down into the ear canal from improper cleaning or little ones simply shoving fingers into their eyes.