How to Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Remove Ear Wax from a Baby
Earwax or cerumen plays an integral role in protecting a baby’s hearing. In addition to lubricating and cleansing the ear canal, the wax prohibits foreign objects, such as dust and bacteria, from coming in contact with the delicate parts of your baby’s inner ear. In most cases, babies require nothing more than the regular wiping away of any wax that works its way to the outside portion of the ear. However, in certain instances, built-up wax may cause hearing loss, ear pain and other symptoms that require treatment, often with a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution, notes Adele Pillitteri, Ph.D., Registered Nurse, Family Nurse Practitioner and author of the book “Maternal and Child Health Nursing.”
Check with your baby’s pediatrician to verify that wax removal is necessary, especially if your baby is under the age of one year. If your baby has a personal history of compacted wax, the physician may approve use of peroxide or another wax-softening solution over the phone, but in most cases, the doctor will check the ear canal with an otoscope first to ensure that wax occlusion is causing the problematic symptoms. Depending upon possible risk factors, such as a punctured eardrum, the doctor may opt to manually remove the earwax himself, as instilling liquid into the ear could lead to additional complications.
Measure 1 to 2 tbsp of body-temperature hydrogen peroxide into a small bowl. Use a 3-percent diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide, which is generally available for purchase in small bottles located in the first-aid aisle of a pharmacy or grocery store.
Fold a large towel in half widthwise and spread it out on one side of a table. Have a helper hold your baby on her lap and encourage the baby to lay his head on the towel with the affected ear completely exposed.
Suck the hydrogen peroxide into a rubber bulb syringe. Tug gently on the outer portion of the affected ear to straighten out the ear canal. Drip six to 10 drops of hydrogen peroxide solution into the ear, using enough of the peroxide to completely fill the ear canal.
Hold your baby still for 15 to 30 minutes to allow the hydrogen peroxide to soak into the chunk of wax.
Encourage your baby to sit upright on your helper's lap. Drape the towel around your baby’s neck and have her tilt her head in the direction of the affected ear to encourage the peroxide and loosened wax pieces to drain from the ear canal.
Never insert cotton swabs or any other pointed objects into your baby’s ear canal when cleaning out the compacted wax. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, this could worsen the wax impaction. (see reference, why shouldn’t cotton swabs be used to clean earwax?)
Avoid using hydrogen peroxide to soften your baby’s compacted earwax on a regular basis, as doing so may create a moist environment conducive to ear infections in the outer ear, according to Pillitteri. (see reference 1)
- “Maternal and Child Health Nursing”; Adele Pillitteri, Ph.D., R.N., FNP; 2009
- American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery: Earwax