Can you hear me now?September 28, 2017
Parents have many concerns about children’s ears.
Here are some answers to a few commonly asked questions…
Should I clean my child’s ears? Nothing should be put in a child ear canal. It is fine to wipe with a wash cloth or a Q-tip on the outside of the ear, but you can damage the ear drum if something were to go to deep in the canal, and all it takes is for a child to move his head!
How do I remove wax from the ear? Often wax does not need to be removed from the ear. Wax actually helps protect against bacterial and fungal infections and helps keep water away from the skin in the ear canal. If your doctor mentions that your child has so much wax that the ear drum cannot be seen, you may be given ear drops called debrox or told to mix hydrogen peroxide with water and put a few drops in the ear for several days to help loosen and remove the wax. Do not try to remove wax with instruments – leave that to the doctor!
Does swimming in the water cause ear infection? There is a type of ear infection called an external ear infection or “swimmer’s ear” where the ear canal is infected with a bacteria. These types of infections can also occur from trauma to the ear canal (excessive cleaning of the canal, use of ear phones) or can be more likely in children with eczema of the ear canal. Often children will complain of pain with movement of the ear, sometimes you can even see a little discharge from the ear. Antibiotic ear drops are recommended for this type of infection. Often children are told to avoid swimming for about a week until it resolves.
Where is a typical ear infection? A classic bacterial ear infection is also called a “middle ear infection.” This type of infection is caused by bacteria creating pus and pressure behind the ear drum. This is not related to swimming and is much more associated with viral colds causing mucus in the middle ear area. In children under 2 years old, this is typically treated with oral antibiotics. In children 2 years and older, we often treat with ibuprofen because the body can usually fight off these infections without complication. However, if fever is present or pain is moderate to severe, oral antibiotics are often recommended.
What if my child’s ear drum ruptures because of an infection? This can happen if the pressure from the pus in the middle ear becomes very high. You may notice yellow fluid or even blood draining from the ear. Usually the ear drum will heal over time without complication. If your child is still having fever and pain even after the ear drum has ruptured, your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics.
How many ear infections can child get before needing tubes? Tympanostomy tubes are tiny tubes placed in the ear drum to allow mucus and pus to drain from the middle ear. Children who get recurrent ear infections (6 or more in a 6 month period) or who consistently have fluid present behind the ear drum that prevents the child from hearing well, may be recommended to have tubes placed. An ENT (ear, nose, throat doctor), places these tubes under anesthesia.
- Click here for more information on ear infections from the American Academy of Pediatrics
- And for more discussion on routine ear cleaning concerns, see this article from Today’s Parent