Fort Worth, Texas,
10:40 AM

3 Tips On How To Clean Your Child's Earwax

'Never Put Anything In Your Ear Smaller Than Your Elbow

"Never put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow."

And yes folks, that means Q-tips. Look at what our medical director of Emergency Services has to say:

“Q-tips and cotton-tip swabs cause numerous ER injuries we see at Cook Children’s,” Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Emergency Services said. “I know people hear this all the time, but children should not be putting cotton-tip swabs in their ears. They can cause damage and sometimes the damage can be severe.”

Natalie Roberge, M.D., an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist at Cook Children’s, says problems from placing cotton-tip swabs in the ear can include:

  1. Pushing the wax further into the ear canal causing impaction.
  2. Laceration/bleeding of the ear canal.
  3. Increased risk of otitis externa from the trauma. It's called swimmer's ear, but really any trauma to the ear canal can lead to otitis externa.
  4. Perforation of the ear drum. Some will not heal and require surgery. Rarely the middle ear ossicles will also be damaged.

So how do you get earwax out of your child's ear? 

Well maybe you don't.

Earwax is a normal, protective coating to the ear. Some kids make more than others.It doesn't need to be removed except in extreme circumstances and should not be removed by parents.

If you can see some earwax on the outside, it's OK to clean it off but there's never a need to place something in the ear canal to remove it.

Even if I see a lot of earwax during a checkup, I don't clean it out unless there is a concern for infection, a problem with hearing or there is discomfort from the wax.When it is time to remove it, we have a few options:

  1. Drops to break down the wax. These can be bought over the counter but should not be used in patients that have a history of tubes or who might have an ear drum rupture.
  2. Ear flushing - In the office, we can use a flushing of fluids to remove the wax from the ear.
  3. Ear curettage - The most common and my preferred method is to use an ear currette to pull the wax out of the ear. This is done with extreme care because the child must be older or held properly to make sure they are safe.

I get asked a lot about earwax from parents. I hope this advice helps. 

Related to this topic:

Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club  and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Smith is an experienced keynote speaker for a variety of topics including pediatric/parenting topics, healthcare social media and physician leadership. If you are interested in having Dr. Smith present to your conference or meeting, please contact him at

He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click to learn more. To make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.


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