Have you ever been told to stop and smell the roses, to see things with fresh eyes, or to touch wood? All of these quirky sayings serve as reminders of how valuable our senses are. But sometimes we forget how much they need taking care of. We pay special attention to make sure they don’t burn themselves or get anything in their eyes, but what about their ears? When it comes to routine care for kids, ears are often forgotten about, yet are so valuable to aid in both the sweet sounds of music, conversations with loved ones, and balance too! So to make it easy on you and your little one, we have broken down the important information about taking care of and cleaning kids’ ears!
To know how to take care of the ear, it is important to understand its anatomy! The ear is divided into the outer, middle and inner sections. The outer ear is the part you can see attached to the side of the face. This includes the part you can pull on: flesh, cartilage, and lobe. This is the part you want to clean! But it also includes the beginning of the ear canal. This very sensitive and important part of your ear is the tunnel to the eardrum, located in the middle ear. The eardrum is instrumental in how we hear sounds. So let’s take extra caution with this part! Lastly, the inner ear is what helps us tell our brain what we are hearing and keep us balanced! So, to be well balanced and happily hearing, you have to keep all parts of the ear safe and healthy.
Taking care of and cleaning kids’ ears requires less maintenance than most body parts. It has plenty of benefits, but if not done properly, it can have serious consequences. We recommend gently washing the visible outer part of your child’s ear regularly when in the shower or bath, just as you would your face, taking care to not allow water to flow inside the inner ear. Of course accidents happen, so if water does sneak in, try having your kiddo gently shake their head to get the water out, and wipe the outer ear with a soft towel. As the old saying goes, don’t put anything inside your ear that is smaller than your elbow!
Q-uit the Q-tips
So, let’s get into something you might not know! Cotton swabs are great for lots of things! Painting projects, absorbing water, applying creams, but contrary to the belief of many, they are not safe to put inside the ear. Kids using cotton swabs can easily push the tip too deep and seriously harm or even puncture their gentle ear drums. In less severe cases, using cotton swabs inside the ear actually pushes wax, water, dirt, and germs that would be on their way out of the ear during kiddos next bath time, back into the ear. Instead of removing water and wax, pushing a swab inside the ear can compact it deeper inside, making it tougher to get out and even potentially disrupting hearing. So let’s let the wax make its way out on its own!
Wax and Whine
Earwax might seem pesky but it’s actually a good thing! It helps prevent bad stuff like water, dirt, dust, bacteria and fungus from doing stuff we don’t want it to in the ear. Wax will creep to the outer ear on its own where it can get washed or wiped away during the cleaning process. If you think there is too much wax and it is affecting hearing or balance, make an appointment with your pediatrician to have a professional conduct ear wax removal for your kid.
Dance to the Beat of Eardrum
Now that we have covered how to not puncture the eardrum, what about keeping your child’s hearing safe in other ways. How loud is too loud for a child’s ears? Adults should not be exposed to sounds above 140 dB. Children however, should not be exposed to sounds above 120 dB. This marked difference proves that kids’ ears need a little extra caution. Be sure that any devices your child uses have the maximum volume set to well below 120 dB. So at your next concert, dance party, or whenever your child might be exposed to loud noises, always have ear protection, such as earplugs or a small set of noise cancelling headphones, on hand.
What about water getting stuck in the ear? Especially for swimmers, the frequent act of sumberging the ears in water and tipping the head to breathe can make water in the ears an ever-present worry. The problem, called Swimmers Ear, can occur when water gets stuck in the ear canal, causing a painful outer ear infection in kids. Symptoms include outer ear swelling and pain. There are over-the-counter products to help get water out of the ear to prevent this problem. But as summer is in full swing, keep an eye out for these symptoms and make an appointment with your pediatrician if they start to arise.
Kids’ ear piercings are quite a responsibility! To avoid the hole closing up, earrings must remain in until fully healed. Always ensure hands are clean before touching pierced ears that have not fully healed. This is key to avoid bacteria from getting to the site and causing an infection. Cleaning the ears several times a day is essential to avoid the possibility of infection. Apply rubbing alcohol to the front and back of the piercing site and twirl the earring post to be sure the alcohol reaches all areas of the piercing. Piercing related ear infections might look like swollen, red, hot ear lobes that are painful and might leak pus. If your child experiences any of these symptoms, please make an appointment with your pediatrician right away.
At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we are passionate about fostering the health and well being of your children from head to toe. We want to hear that your kids’ ears are feeling and hearing well. If you have any concerns, or you think your child might need to have their ears checked or cleaned by a pediatrician, please schedule an appointment. After all, the health of your little one is music to our ears!