Geeta Sanjeev, an IT professional, noticed that her four-year-old son was constantly scratching his left ear and poking it with his fingers. She thought it was a case of ear infection and took him to a paediatrician. To her surprise, the doctor said it was a case of wax accumulation and he recommended her to take him to an ENT specialist. Geeta is not the only mother whose son suffers from ear wax accumulation.
Whenever parents see earwax in their children’s ears, they reach for the earbud to get rid of the accumulated earwax. If untreated, earwax can turn hard and dry, which can lead to hearing problems.
What is earwax?
Earwax is a substance which is secreted in the outer ear canals. It primarily protects the skin of the human ear canal. In addition, it provides protection against water, insects and other types of fungi and bacteria. The major components of earwax are fatty acids, alcohols, squalene, and cholesterol. Ear wax is also known as 'cerumen.'
How does earwax accumulate in infants and toddlers?
The ears secrete earwax as a way of preventing the eardrum from getting damaged by dirt, dust and other particles. Usually, the earwax finds its own way out of the ear canal. However, sometimes, it might accumulate and turn hard causing irritation in the ear.
While cleaning your toddler's ears with cotton swabs, you might accidentally push the earwax deeper into the ear canals leading to blockage. Some children might also use their fingers, which pushes back the accumulated wax.
Ways to remove earwax in toddlers:
Put the head in a raised position
Try to hold the toddler’s head in a raised position for some minutes. The position should enable you to put ear drops without spilling it. This will make the removal of the toddler's earwax easier.
Use a washcloth
Use a soft washcloth to clean the outside of your child’s ears. With the passage of time, the earwax inside the ear canal becomes hard and so, it is advisable to first soften the earwax by using oil or cream.
Avoid using cotton swabs or earbuds
Most of us use cotton swabs and earbuds to clean our toddler’s ears. However, one needs to be careful while doing this as cotton swabs can potentially damage the eardrum and push wax further down the ear canal.
Use ear drops/oil recommended by the doctor
When using ear drops to soften earwax that has accumulated in your toddler’s ear, make sure you use one that has been recommended by a doctor.
According to a parenting website, experts recommend using olive or mineral oil to soften the baby’s ears before cleaning it. In fact, oils are a major ingredient in many earwax removal drops and kits.
Note: This method is to be applied only after consulting the doctor.
If the above-mentioned techniques do not work, it is best recommended that an ENT specialist or a doctor or a paediatrician should be consulted.
How to tell if a toddler’s ear troubles are due to earwax or ear infection?
It is difficult for parents to tell whether their toddler has earwax accumulation or is simply suffering from an ear infection. A toddler with a build-up of earwax may rub or tug at his ears the same way he would do if one suffers from an ear infection. However, one clear way to distinguish is that earwax accumulation does not result in fever and sleep problems, which occurs when there is an ear infection.
If you suspect there is wax accumulation in your baby’s ear, you can simply look and find out. In case of wax accumulation, there is a yellow or brown discharge. On the other hand, in case of ear infection, there is a milky pus-like or even a bloody discharge.
Earaches are painful and can be caused by a range of ailments. Let’s look at some of the causes and their treatments.
Ensure that you regularly clean your toddler’s ear canals and watch out for signs of discomfort and pain. If there’s too much pain, visit an ENT specialist for expert advice and removal of the hardened earwax in an easy and comfortable way.
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