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Posted by Dr. Monica Wonnacott | January 26, 2016

What To Do About Ear Wax

Thanks B.J.S. from Utah for your recent topic suggestion on ear wax.

Why is it that some kids produce tons of ear wax and others hardly produce any? I don’t have a great answer. The good news is that ear wax is not something to worry too much about. Ear wax has some natural protective effects for the ear. So, to answer your question, you don’t need to worry about removing ear wax.

Why does your pediatrician bother to take out ear wax?

Your doctor may take out the ear wax in order to see the tympanic membrane (or ear drum). The ear drum has to be visualized in order to diagnose “otitis media” or a middle ear infection. In our office, the wax is removed either by scooping it out (with a device called a curette) or irrigating/washing it out.

How should you clean your child’s ear?

Whatever wax can be seen on the outer ear can be wiped off with a clean towel or Q-tip. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT put anything down the ear canal. You can impact the wax (by shoving it next to ear drum), rupture the ear drum, injure the canal, or lose foreign bodies (like pieces of a Q-tip) in the ear canal. Leave the ear canal wax alone. A professional can take it out as necessary for exams.

How do you know if it is ear wax and not something else?

Wax is generally yellow or brown. It can be dry and flaky or sticky and wet. One type is not better or worse than another. Occasionally, a hard, impacted piece in the ear will be very dark brown or black. Anything that looks like blood, pus (white and creamy), or smells should be evaluated by a doctor.