Ear care is important for all of us, but young children need special care and attention to protect them from infection and hearing loss. Here are 10 of the best ways to look after your children’s ears.
1. Cleaning your baby’s ears is a delicate process. Use a damp cloth to wipe behind and around the ears, then twirl the tip of the cloth and tuck it into your baby’s ear. Gently roll the cloth around, then remove and pat dry with a dry cloth. Do not try to clean the inner ear – if you’re concerned about a build-up of wax, ask a doctor!
2. Make sure your baby is sat upright during bottle-feeding. Whether you’re using milk or formula, bottle-feeding a baby that is lying down can allow some liquid into the ear channels, which can trigger an infection.
3. Never use a cotton swab to clean the inner ear. This applies to adults as well, as cotton swabs and other hard objects can actually worsen a blockage. A doctor can remove a build-up without risk of damaging the eardrum.
4. Make sure older children are aware of what is dangerous, and encourage them to be responsible for their own ear health. Ensure they know that putting things in ears is dangerous – and keep an eye out for any mishaps!
5. Teach children good nose-blowing technique as soon as they are old enough. Make sure they blow softly, rather than forcefully, and not to stifle sneezes, as both of these things can drive infection back up into the inner ear.
6. Protect your children’s hearing at concerts, parties or even family events with live music using a set of ear defenders. These relatively inexpensive mufflers block out plenty of noise, and are available for babies, infants, and older children.
7. If your children are frequent swimmers, or learning at school, ensure they wear swimming caps to reduce the risk of excess water in the ears. You may also want to consider antiseptic ear drops, which can help prevent infection.
8. If you notice your child display symptoms of decreased hearing – not responding to you, for example, or not appearing to pay attention, book them in for a hearing test and a check up with your doctor.
9. Watch out for signs of infection. Babies will often cry more, and touch or pull the ear that hurts. Older children may tell you they are experiencing lack of balance, or a stuffy feeling in one ear. Ear infections in children can be severe if not treated straight away, so make sure you get these checked up as soon as possible.
10. Children are more susceptible to ear infections after another illness, including childhood diseases such as measles, mumps, or scarlet fever. Always have them checked after a sickness, as well as continuing with your normal ear care routine.