I've heard that using a cotton swab to remove my child's earwax isn't a good
idea. Is this true? And, if so, how can I clean my child's ears safely?
That's true — it's not a good idea to stick anything into a child's ears.
Doing so raises the risk of infection or permanently damaging eardrums and hearing.
Regular bathing should be enough to keep earwax at normal levels.
The waxy substance (called cerumen) that the ears make provides a coating for the
skin lining the ear canal. This helps keep the canal skin from getting too wet or
dry, which helps prevent irritation or infection. Earwax also traps dirt, dust, and
other particles, keeping them from injuring or irritating the eardrum.
While some people have more earwax than others — just as some people tend
to sweat more than others — in general, the ear makes just as much wax as it
In some cases, a hardened lump of wax can form in the canal, which can make it
difficult to hear in that ear or even trap bacteria and cause an infection. If this
happens, don't stick anything inside the ear to try to remove the wax yourself. Doing
so could cause permanent hearing damage.
If your child needs to have earwax removed, a medical professional should
remove it in an office or clinical setting. For hearing problems or pain or irritation
in or near the ears, talk with your doctor, who can examine your child to find the
And while earwax remedies are sold in stores, it's important not to use anything
inside a child's ears unless told to do so by a doctor.