May 23, 2016

Dr. Gellner: Earwax seems to freak a lot of parents out. We'll deal with earwax facts today on The Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering "The Healthy Kid Zone" with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: While some kids have more earwax than others, in general, the ear makes just as much wax as it needs. True some kids are little wax factories, but unless the wax causes pain or decreased hearing, leave it alone. So why do ears make wax? Yes, earwax really does have a function. It helps protect your child's eardrum and ear canal by providing a waterproof lining, helping to keep it dry when your child swims or bathes and preventing germs from causing infection. It also traps dust, dirt and other particles, keeping them from injuring or irritating the eardrum.

It's all the stuff earwax collects can give it unique color and smell. Say your child complains their ear hurts and you can actually see the wax. It's okay to use a wash cloth to clean it out, but do not, I repeat, do not use cotton swabs to clean out your child's ear. I've seen a lot of kids with ear canal and eardrum damage from those swabs going in too far or too fast. For some reason, kids are fascinated by putting things in any orifice, especially their ears. They'll want to use the swabs themselves to show that they're big and they can clean themselves.

That's why I tell my younger patients, "Do not put anything in your ears smaller than an elephant." And please do not do ear candling on your child. Placing a cone inserted into your child's ear and setting it on fire just isn't safe. If your child has any ear pain, hearing problems or an uncomfortable blocked feeling in the ear, take them in for their pediatrician to check out the earwax situation. We have ways of cleaning out the wax safety.

And if we find an infection, we can treat your child. If there is no infection and the wax was the only issue, they'll leave the office with squeaky-clean ear canals. If you have any concerns about your child's ears or hearing, be sure to call your child's pediatrician. We get really good at looking at ears.

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