- Family and Parenting
What to Do about Toddlers Putting Things in their Ears
The human ear is very sensitive to pain and is easily damaged. It seems obvious that even a small child should know better than to insert objects into it. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. A few simple tactics can help you prevent this from becoming a problem and can help you deal with the issue if you are too late to prevent it.
Unfortunately, there is no easy cure for children who have a tendency to put objects in their ears, but there are some preventative steps you can take. Depending on the age of the child, the discomfort of an object in the ear the first time may be the necessary cure. However, especially young children may not yet have developed the cognitive ability to connect cause and effect. You can help encourage this development by watching your child closely, then gently but firmly saying "no" and taking away the object in question when he tries to put it in his ear.
The simplest means of preventing your baby or toddler from putting items in his ear is to sort through his toys and set aside the ones with parts small enough to fit in the ear. Since these types of objects could also be a choking hazard for small children, you should store them where your child cannot reach them anyway -- regardless of whether he tends to put things in his ears.
If you notice your child repeatedly trying to put things in his ear -- even if they are large, safe objects that will not fit inside the ear -- try putting protective ear coverings on him, such as soft ear muffs or a headband. This strategy can be particularly effective for young children who may not yet be fully aware of their actions. Of course, this is not a replacement for carefully watching your child and making sure he does not have access to dangerous items; it is simply a backup precaution.
Item Removal and Medical Attention
If you suspect that there may be an object lodged in your child’s ear, MedlinePlus recommends that you first try using gravity to dislodge it. Tip the child’s head with the ear in question facing the ground. Do not jolt or strike the head, just very gently shake it. If nothing comes out, then investigate whether the object is visible. If it is visible, you may be able to remove it with tweezers. Do not use tweezers with tips that are sharp or pointy; the ear canal is made up of a thin layer of sensitive skin over solid bone, and any pressure or pricking could be very painful.
Once you have selected your tool, turn the child’s head to the side and attempt to remove the object. Do not try to remove the object if you could push it farther in; instead, take your child to the doctor. Many items that may become lodged in an ear could either swell themselves (such as a bean), or could cause the ear to swell. Both of these possibilities make it more difficult for the doctor to remove the item. Therefore, if you cannot remove the object yourself quickly and easily, you should seek qualified medical attention as soon as possible. Doctors have tools better suited than ordinary household tweezers to removing items from a small ear canal. A doctor will also be able to tell you if there has been any damage to the ear that needs to be addressed.