Using cotton swabs to remove earwax manually can actually cause impacted earwax (build-up of earwax). Experts at KK Women's and Children's Hospital explain how to prevent and treat impacted earwax.
Impacted wax needs to be removed if it is causing problems such as ear pain and hearing loss. Removal of earwax is also necessary if it is preventing proper evaluation of the eardrums and middle ear space.
Treatment for impacted earwax
There are several available ways of removing earwax. The most common home remedy is the use of a wax-softening agent, which is applied everyday until the wax softens and comes out.
Some commercial preparations can cause allergic reaction to ear canal skin and should be used with caution among children with known allergies. Safer alternatives to these commercial drops include mineral oil and glycerin. If wax-softening agents fail, the next option will be to seek professional help.
Earwax removal either by irrigation or suctioning is normally performed in the clinic. Earwax can also be removed manually using special instruments if the child is able to understand instructions and willing to cooperate.
Manual removal of wax should not be attempted at home if the wax is located deep in the ear canal.
For children who cannot cooperate with the above methods, removal of earwax and ear examination can be accomplished under sedation or general anaesthesia.
Preventing earwax build-up for your child
Earwax is a natural body secretion and there is no way to stop our body from secreting this substance. One of the ways to prevent impacted earwax is to avoid the use of cotton swabs in the ear canal.
The best way to clean the external ear is to wipe the outer opening with a damp washcloth folded over the index finger, without going into the ear canal.
Since the rate of earwax production varies from one individual to another, it is advisable to check your child’s ear at least once a month. If wax is beginning to build up, you can start using any of the available home remedies for softening wax.
Before using any eardrops, make sure that your child’s ear has no infection or eardrum perforation. If your child develops ear pain or ear discharge after using eardrops, stop using them immediately and consult a physician.