The ear is a self-cleaning organ, so all you need is a clean washcloth or cotton balls to wipe behind your baby’s ears and around the outer lobe of each ear during baths. Do not clean the inner canal of your baby’s ears. Ear wax actually protects the ear canal and dries up to form little balls that fall out on their own when we yawn, chew, or swallow.
COMMON PROBLEMS: Pediatricians and eyes, ears, nose, and throat (EENT) specialists advise against the use of cotton buds when cleaning the ear canal, as wax is likely to be pushed back against the eardrum, puncturing it if pushed back too far.
Ear wax only needs to be removed when: 1) it causes pain; 2) you suspect it’s causing hearing loss; and 3) if an unimpeded view of the eardrum is needed. Impacted ear wax can be treated with ear drops alone or irrigation, but only as directed and prescribed by your child’s pediatrician.
NOSE Babies often have thick, dried-up secretions in the nose. These secretions usually clear up when your little one is given a bath. However, if baby’s nose is stuffed to a point where there is difficulty in breathing, there are two things you can do to clear it up:
1. Use saline nose drops. Saline drops help keep nasal tissues moist, relieve nasal irritation, and help obtain thick or dried mucus to drain. You can purchase them without prescription in drug stores, or you can make your own at home. Mix a teaspoon of salt and 8-ounce cup of warm water, and stir until dissolved. Transfer the saline solution into a clean covered jar or bottle and use a medicine dropper to apply. Remember to boil the water first and keep the bottle and dropper sterile. Make a fresh batch each time your child gets sick, or every three days if needed.
2. Suction your child’s nose. If the saline solution doesn’t work, try using a pediatric nose suction tool 2-3 times a day to clear the mucus. Remember to suction your baby’s nose 15 to 20 minutes before feeding. Suctioning after baby has been fed may cause vomiting. Squeeze air out before inserting the bulb aspirator into the nostril. Gently place the tip of the bulb into a nostril and let the air come back into the bulb. The suction will pull the mucus out of the nose and into the bulb. Squeeze mucus out of bulb into a tissue. Do the same with the other nostril. Don’t suction aggressively. This may cause inflammation of the nasal tissues, which can aggravate the congestion. If your child is annoyed by the procedure, stop and try again later. Gently wipe off the mucus around the nose with tissue to prevent skin irritation. Separate the plastic tip and the rubber bulb of the aspirator before washing them in cool, soapy water. Squeeze the bulb several times to clean out the mucus. Rinse well.
Sources: l Dr. Consuelo Teodoro, pedaitrician, Cardinal Santos Medical Center l Baby and Child Care, by Benjamin Spock, M.D. and Steven Parker, M.D. l Your Baby’s First Year, by Steven Shelov, M.D. l “Keeping Ears Clean: What’s the best way to get rid of ear wax?” by Robert K. Jackler, MD, webmd.com l Webstes: raisingchildren.net.au ; cincinnatichildrens.org