Earwax: digging your child's ear

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There are many articles out there about earwax and the advice on not to dig children's ears, the ears self-clean by themselves, they said. OK, here are some information to resolve the misunderstandings. 

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is usually a friend, not a foe. It is formed by secretions from the sebaceous glands lining the ear canal, plus a collection of the cells that slough off from the lining of the ear canal. Earwax has protective properties. It provides a barrier protecting the sensitive lining of the ear canal against water. It also contains infection-fighting elements that protect against bacterial and fungal infections.


Yet, earwax can plug the canal, causing irritation and sometimes interfering with hearing. Earwax may also need to be removed if your doctor suspects an ear infection and needs a clear view of the eardrum. The best way to handle earwax is to not handle it at all. Leave it alone. Do not go mining for wax in your child's ear. You may only use your finger or wet cloth to remove any visible wax from the outside of the ear canal. Experts advice not to dig ears for the fear of pushing even more wax deeper into the ear. This can lead to a totally blocked ear canal.


Although the advice is to "leave it alone," wax can build up enough to completely block the ear canal. This feeling can be very uncomfortable for a person. It can also muffle the hearing, which is okay for a brief time, but not good if left alone. Children and adults need to hear optimally to function in life. If an infant or toddler goes for many months with blocked ears, this can interfere with speech development.

So if digging of ears is necessary, see a doctor. Otherwise, if you are doing it yourself, use a wooden ear digger (the type with a tiny spoon), don't use cotton buds as you might end up pushing the ear wax deeper in.

Here are some summarised tips:

  1. Never dig your children's ears with a cotton bud. It will make matters worse as the cotton buds would push the dirt deeper into the ear and there it will stay. 
  2. The ear wax forms on the outer part of the ear where there is ear hair. It will trap the dirt. The wax in the ear will 'clean out' the dirt in the ear. It will flow out to the outer part of the ear and that's when we clean it out. Don't dig in.
  3. Use an ear digger (the metal/wooden ones with a tiny spoon). Not cotton bud. 
  4. Don't dig in. Esp for babies and children. Their ear drums ain't too far in. 

Sources:
http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/childhood-illnesses/earwax http://joanne-momsays.blogspot.sg/2009/11/should-we-dig-our-childrens-ears.html http://www.babycenter.com/0_earwax-buildup_11426.bc

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