Jack Murphy (not his real name) was famous in my house growing up. He sat in the back of my brother’s class in elementary school. At that point in my life, what he did was the most disgusting thing I had ever heard of. So, naturally, it was also the funnest thing I had ever heard of.
My dad coined the term “chips and dip.” When no one was looking, or so he thought, Jack would go to work. He would start rooting around in his ear until he found the perfect piece of earwax. Quietly, subtly, Jack then slid that finger into his nose. Careful not to lose control of the wax, he proceeded to dig around until he found what he was looking for. A smile would cross his face as he looked down to see a piece of earwax (the chip) topped by a bugger (the dip) sitting on his finger.
What do you do with chips and dip? You eat it. And, that is exactly what Jack did. As an adult, I vomit in my mouth a little when I think about it. As a kid, it was the funniest thing that had ever happened. To this day, if you talk about Jack’s “chip and dip” my brother and I will still have a little chuckle
Surely, there is a better way to clean out earwax.
Earlier this week, we posted why you shouldn’t clean your kid’s ears (or yours) with Q-tips. How to clean them then?
First, we need to discuss the two different types of earwax. The type your kid has is determined by his or her genes. The approach to cleaning ears differs slightly depending on the type of wax your kid has.
- Wet, sticky earwax. Often dark in color, 98% of people of European descent have wet, sticky earwax.
- Dry, flaky earwax. This wax is often white. A majority of people of eastern Asian decent and almost everyone of Korean decent have dry, flaky wax. People with dry wax also lack a certain chemical in their sweat that odor-causing bacteria feed on. Therefore, those lucky few have less body odor and many don’t even need to use deodorant.
So, what works to remove earwax?
It should be clear that you should not put anything in your ear if you may have an infection, perforation, or recent surgery.
Cerumenolytics are medications used break up cerumen (earwax). First, lets say that cerumenolytics work. They have been proven to be more effective at removing earwax than doing nothing at all. This may seem obvious, but it important to establish that these meds do work.
Now, which one to use? Basically, all of them work. The three most common being mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide, and liquid docusate sodium. 9 clinical studies were reviewed and showed that all of the tested cerumenolytics worked. There was no difference in how well each of these meds worked. In fact, even water and salt water were shown to have a similar effect as the meds.
One caveat though. If your child has dry, flaky earwax, you should avoid medications that cause excessive dryness, specifically, hydrogen peroxide. If the ear canal becomes too dry, then the ear may produce even more earwax. Your child’s earwax should be removed with mineral oil or liquid docusate sodium.
It’s hard to say how often your kid should receive these medicines. It may be helpful to ask your doctor. Some kids need a drop every day. Some need a drop every once and a while. Others, none at all. It all depends on how much earwax your child makes and if the earwax is blocking up their ear canal.
Lastly, do no use ear candles. What in the world is an ear candle, you may ask. It’s a hallow candle that is burned over the ear. The thought is that the burning candle creates negative pressure, which helps to draw the wax out of the ear canal. It doesn’t work. The candles do not produce negative pressure. No earwax is removed. There are multiple reports of hot ear wax dropping into the ear canal causing ear injuries though. Just don’t do it.
So, to recap: 1) Ask your doctor if it would be helpful to remove your kid’s earwax. 2) Don’t burn a candle over your ear. 3) Consider yourself lucky if you have dry earwax and less body odor.
And no chips and dip.
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