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Taking Care of Your Ears

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As body parts go, your ears don't ask for much. They don't need to be brushed like your teeth or trimmed like your toenails. All your ears need is to be washed regularly, so wash them with soap and water while you're sudsing up the rest of your body in the bath or shower.

The Facts on Earwax

You might wonder about earwax and whether it needs to be cleaned out. Actually, even though earwax seems yucky, it serves a purpose. Your ear canal makes earwax to protect the ear. After it is produced, it slowly makes its way to the opening of the ear. Then it either falls out or is removed when you wash. If you want, you can clean the opening of your ear gently with a washcloth.

There's an old saying that you shouldn't put anything smaller than your elbow in your ear. Not all old sayings are true, but this one is! You can hurt your ear by poking around in there. It's not even a good idea to use a cotton swab. This can push wax deeper in your ear, where it can get stuck. Irritating the ear canal with a cotton swab can even lead to an ear canal infection.

And definitely don't put anything sharp in your ear because it can cause bleeding or serious damage. If you think you have dirt or too much earwax in your ear, ask your mom or dad to help you clean it out.

Taking Care of Pierced Ears

Pierced ears may look pretty, but you need to take good care of them or things can get ugly! When you first get your ears pierced, leave the earrings in until your ears are completely healed. If you don't, your holes could close up.

You'll also want to prevent infections in your newly pierced ears. Wash your hands before touching your pierced ears. Applying rubbing alcohol also can help keep germs away. With an adult's help, soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and apply it to both sides of the hole (with the earring still in your ear). Then twirl the earring several times to make sure the alcohol gets in and around the earring post.

If you think one of your pierced ears may be infected, tell your mom or dad. An infected earlobe may be swollen, red, warm, and painful, and it may ooze a fluid called pus. Don't wait for it to get better by itself.

Tips for Swimmers

Sometimes, swimming can lead to a case of swimmer's ear. That's when your outer ear gets infected, causing swelling and pain. This happens when water gets stuck in your ear canal. This can irritate the skin, making it easier for bacteria to invade the skin and cause an infection. If you think you have swimmer's ear, your mom or dad needs to call the doctor. Special ear drops can help you get rid of it.

To prevent swimmer's ear, dry your ears after swimming and shake out excess water, especially if you feel it stuck in there. Again, with your parent's help, special ear drops can dry out any moisture in there. Drying your ears will keep you — and your ears — in the swim!

Ears, Hot and Cold

Now you know how to keep your ears happy underwater, but what about when it's hot outside? When the sun is beating down, wear a hat or remember to rub some sunscreen on your ears, so they don't get fried. And when winter rolls around, keep them covered up with a hat or headband. Why? Because when it's freezing outside, it's easy for ears to get frostbitten. Brrrr!

Reviewed by: Steven P. Cook, MD
Date reviewed: August 2012

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995–2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.

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