Q: My nine-year-old seems to have a buildup of wax in his ears. How can I clean his ears safely?
A: Earwax is not bad. In fact, it protects the ear by trapping dirt, bacteria, water and even small insects that enter the canal. Usually the wax dries and falls out on its own. In some cases, it might build up and block sound. Never try to remove buildup with a cotton swab in the ear — it can injure the ear canal or eardrum. But there are some things you can try to remove the wax. Put a few drops of mineral or baby oil in the ear and rinse it out in the bath or shower. You can also try a couple of drops of hydrogen peroxide, keeping it in with a cotton plug for a few hours. If these don’t seem to work, your doctor may have a few tricks, such as using liquid laxative (yes!), or he may try syringing the ear.
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