|How To Safely Clean Your Baby's Ears|
Safe and proper ear cleaning is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of personal hygiene. For parents, the issue of whether to clean the baby's ears is often fraught with confusion. One the one hand, earwax buildup can be acutely uncomfortable; on the other, cleaning the ear risks causing infection or damaging the baby's delicate eardrum.
Earwax is actually beneficial
Cerumen, the substance commonly known as earwax, is a combination of several chemicals (including cholesterol) that's secreted by many of the same glands that help keep the body's skin moist and hydrated. It's manufactured in the outer ear canal but carried towards the ear's edge by the movement of the jaw, taking dirt, dust and other harmful agents along with it.
Earwax varies among different ethnic groups. Among Asians and Native Americans, earwax is flaky and gray. Caucasian and Afrocentric peoples typically have earwax that is damp and honey- or brown-colored.
Cleaning baby's delicate ears
Parents are strongly encouraged to let their baby's doctors clean the child's ears during routine wellness visits. They'll use special instrumentation that won't prove a danger to puncturing or scratching the eardrum.
If you notice that waxy buildup is covering the eardrum, however, you may wish to remove the wax yourself. Excessive earwax around the ear canal can put pressure on baby's eardrum, resulting in balance problems and severe discomfort.
Never insert a cotton swab, your finger, or any other cleaning implement into your child's ear canal. Even light contact is enough to scratch the eardrum. Moreover, cotton swabs can pack the dirt, dust, and other harmful particulate matter closer to the eardrum, actually increasing the risk of infection.
Some health care item manufacturers promote special bell-shaped swabs for cleaning the baby's outer ear. While these are safety-tested to present no danger to the child's inner ear, parents should still use them with caution.
Preventing waxy buildup
Earwax buildup can be slowed simply by keeping the child's ear and neck area clean. Parents can even use a cotton swab or ball dipped in warm water or peroxide around the ear bud and neck area for maximum cleanliness. Just make sure that none gets inside the ear canal.
When the child gets older
The child can begin cleaning its own ears as soon as it can understand the safe use of cotton swabs. Parents can introduce safe ear cleaning about the same time they teach the correct way to wash hair and trim fingernails and toenails.