Excessive or impacted earwax occurs in one in ten children, compared to one in twenty adults.
Young children are often unable to express symptoms related to this build up e.g. hearing loss, and this makes them particularly vulnerable to a lack of evaluation and treatment. With smaller ear canals and ears, wax build up can cause a blockage more quickly and if not treated can impact on hearing, and therefore development.
This can also lead to infection of the outer ear where water becomes trapped behind built up wax. It is therefore extremely important to keep a child’s hygiene and ear health top-notch. However, many parents are cautious and wary of what to do when it comes to ear cleaning and ear health.
Lisa Hellwege, Registered Nurse and Founder of Earworx, an earwax removal clinic, shares effective tips for parents cleaning their child’s ears who do not require a treatment or are too young for the procedure.
Use a soft washcloth
Children’s ears, like an adult’s ears, are actually designed to be self-cleaning; they normally do not need to be ‘cleaned’. Earwax, produced in the outer third of the ear canal, is carried out by a migrating skin layer which works like a conveyor belt. As the wax is carried out and emerges from the outer ear, it can be gently wiped away using a soft washcloth or tissue. It is important to note that the cloth should only be used on the outside of the ear and no fingers or cotton buds should be inserted into the ear. Using cotton buds or other objects inside the ear canal can push the wax further down the canal, worsening symptoms. A soft washcloth is also a safe method if a child has any residue on the outer ear after an infection.
Use olive oil
Olive oil and other commercially prepared earwax softening drops from the chemist, soften and break down excessive earwax that may be causing a blockage. For olive oil use, it is recommended to use four to six drops in each ear whilst the child lies on either side for five minutes. This allows the drops to penetrate the entire wax plug, as opposed to just the bottom of the wax or not at all when just tilting your head. This method will work best if it is completed right before bed. Cotton wool can be used in the outer ear after administration to keep the drops inside the ear for longer. It is important to remember that a cotton bud should never be used to administer the olive oil or clean away the wax; again this may push wax further down the canal.
Dry the ears after a bath, shower or swim
To prevent infections, blockages and keep the ears clean, parents can help their child dry their ears after a bath, shower or swim. This can be done by having the child tilt their ear to one side against a towel to allow the water to drip out on its own. A hairdryer on low heat may also be used for any trapped water within the canal. For any abnormal secretions from the ear, always seek a doctor’s opinion.
Earworx clinics are located in Sydney, Hobart, Launceston and Ulverstone. The new Bondi Junction clinic is located at 16A Vernon St, Bondi Junction, 2025. For more information visit www.earworx.com.au.