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Ear wax has an important job. It’s a filter for your child’s ear, protecting the ear canal from water, infection, trauma and foreign objects. If ear wax builds up in your child’s ear, you can often just use ear drops from the chemist. Sometimes you might need to see your GP.

About ear wax in children

Ear wax comes from glands in the ear canal. When it’s first made, this wax is soft and colourless. When it comes into contact with air, it gets harder and becomes yellowish-brown.

The medical name for ear wax is ‘cerumen’.

The ear has three main parts – the outer ear (the ear canal and ear lobe), the middle ear (behind the eardrum, and linked to the throat via a small tube called the Eustachian tube), and the inner ear (which has the nerves that help to detect sound).

Symptoms of ear wax build-up

The ear canal’s lining constantly renews itself. Along with chewing and talking, this process of renewal usually moves wax out of the ear.

But sometimes a build-up of wax can block the ear canal and cause discomfort like an earache. The build-up can also sometimes cause dizziness, mild deafness or ringing in the ear.

In most cases ear wax build-up is harmless and easily managed.

When to see your doctor about ear wax

You should take your child to the GP if you think she has a build-up of ear wax, which you can’t soften with drops from the chemist.

Also see your GP if your child has any of the symptoms noted above.

Treatment for ear wax build-up

You can soften ear wax with drops that you can buy from the chemist.

If your child has a regular build-up of ear wax, he might have to use special ear drops.

Sometimes your GP will use a syringe to flush out or remove the wax. In more serious cases of ear wax build-up, your child might need to see an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Avoid using cotton buds in your child’s ear, because they can push ear wax in deeper or even cause damage to the ear canal or drum.
  • Last updated or reviewed 12-10-2015