While it may seem counterintuitive to adults, shoving things into their ears is a common practice that stems from children’s eagerness to fully explore the world, states Dr. Jonathan Powell of Resurrection Medical Group in Chicago. From toys to foods -- and even the occasional creepy-crawler -- things can become lodged in your child's ear. If not tended to, this could lead to an infection or leave your child with hearing loss. The appropriate way to deal with an item in your child's ear will depend on what the item is and how far it has gotten into the ear. It is generally only OK to remove an in-ear item that is visible and is easy to grab. Things that fall outside of this category require a physician's help.
If you’re lucky, your adventurous tot will tell you he has put something into his ear. If not, you may have to discover this on your own. If your child complains of ear pain or -- if he’s not yet verbal -- rubs one of his ears excessively, it could be a sign that there is something foreign in his ear. Also, watch for redness or drainage as both are indications that something is amiss.
Visibly inspect your child’s ear. If you can see the object clearly, you may be able to use some noninvasive removal techniques to rid the ear cavity of this unwanted guest. Alternatively, if you can’t see the object or it is jammed into the ear canal, seek medical help immediately.
Consider your child's level of upset and general demeanor when approaching the removal of an object in his ear. For example, do not attempt to use tweezers if your little one is squirmy as you run the risk of shoving this object further into the ear and exacerbating the problem. Similarly, if your child is highly upset by the fact that something is in his ear, he may be too distressed to comply with your requests to hold still. If you doubt your youngster’s ability to be a still and willing patient, take him to the doctor for help.
If you can see the object, tilt your child’s head to the side so the impacted ear is facing the ground. Pull your child’s ear upward and back, which can help to straighten the ear canal. Ask your child to shake his head upward and downward slightly to determine if you can get the object to drop out. If the item doesn't fall out on its own but you can easily see and grasp it, attempt to grip it with tweezers and remove it, recommends the University of Pennsylvania Health System. If you can't easily grip the item, don't struggle to do so as you increase your likelihood of inadvertently shoving it into your little one's ear.
If an insect is to blame for your child’s ear issue, enlist the help of some baby oil and tweezers. Ask your child to turn his head so the impacted ear faces upward. Place a few drops of oil into the ear. The baby oil will likely bother the bug, suggests the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which will cause it to crawl out of the ear and give you the chance to grab it with tweezers. If that doesn't work, contact your doctor.
If you have any doubt as to your ability to remove the object from your child’s ear, visit your child’s pediatrician immediately. While the specific procedure will differ based on your child’s age, the object in question and the depth of the lodged object, the process will likely only entail some bright lighting and a specialized medical tool that the doctor can fish into your child’s ear canal to pluck out the offending item. In the most serious cases, your child may need anesthesia and a more invasive remedy.
Though you can’t entirely eliminate the possibility that your child will once again shove something into his ear, you can take strides to keep small objects out of his reach. Particularly if your child has demonstrated a propensity for exploring in this fashion, exercising extra care to keep would-be ear-invaders out of his grasp is a wise option.