Insects in a Child's Ear

Insects may fly into the ear and become trapped when a child is playing outdoors. Other times, an insect can enter the ear while a child is sleeping. Sometimes the insect dies after entering the ear. In other cases, it may remain alive and try to work its way back out of the ear. In either case, the insect can cause fear and discomfort for a child. The insect should be removed right away.

First-aid for insects in the ear

  • Calm your child and let him or her know you can help.

  • Don't try to remove the insect by poking it with a cotton swab or other probe. This may push the insect farther into the ear. Or it can damage the middle ear and eardrum.

  • Tilt your child's head to the side and gently shake it. Don't hit your child's head.

  • If your child has tubes in his or her ears or has a history of ear problems, call your child's doctor right away. The doctor can tell you what to do.

  • If your child does not have tubes or ear problems, follow these tips:

    • If you think the insect is still alive and it does not come out with gentle head shaking, pour a small amount of vegetable or baby oil into the ear canal. This will usually kill the insect.

    • If you think the insect is dead and it does not come out with gentle head shaking, pour a small amount of warm water into the ear canal to flush it out. A bulb syringe like the kind found in over-the-counter earwax removal kits may be helpful. If you aren't sure the object is an insect, don't put water in the ear canal. If the object is a tightly wedged seed or bean, water may cause the object to swell.

When should I call my child's doctor?

Your child's doctor will figure out other treatment that your child might need. In general, call your child's doctor:

  • To have the insect removed if it does not come out after shaking or adding water to the ear. Insects can damage the inside of the ear by stinging or scratching the eardrum.

  • If you can remove only parts or pieces of the insect

  • If your child develops signs of infection. These include fever or foul smell or drainage from the ear.