This Singaporean ENT Says You Shouldn't Clean Your Children's Ears; The Ear Is Actually A Self-Cleaning Device!

Portrait of Dr Annabelle Leong
Dr Annabelle Leong

November 15th, 2018· 5 min read

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I just want to be prepared...

Children are sensitive creatures. During their developmental years, their minds and bodies can be more fragile than a sandcastle on a rainy day.

They can suddenly fall seriously ill. This is why keeping an eye on every sniffle and cough is vital for them to enjoy a healthy and happy childhood.

Dr Annabelle Leong, an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon has 15 years of experience in managing all types of ENT conditions. They include nasal, sinus, and sleep disorders.

During her recent Human Session, she gave her medical opinions on a broad spectrum of ENT problems that children often experience. From minor colds to ear infections to serious allergies, here are the key takeaways.

Signs that your child may have an ear infection

It's not always easy to tell if your child is suffering from an ear infection, especially if he or she isn't able to speak properly yet. What to do then?

Dr Leong shared some of the tell-tale signs she heard from her kiddie parents. Their child either tugs repeatedly at his or her own ears or tries to stick hisor her finger into the ears. They are also often grumpier or crankier than usual.

Occasionally, they may be in pain or run a fever too. In some instances, you might find yellowish or unpleasant-smelling discharge coming out of their ears.

Yes, your child can lose hearing from an ear infection

Child doing hearing test

Hold on, don't panic just yet! While it is true that recurring ear infections can cause a child to lose his/her hearing, it depends greatly on where the infection happens.

Dr Leong explained that if the outer ear canal becomes infected, the loss of hearing is only caused by the swelling of skin. The child will regain his/her hearing once the outer ear infection is resolved.

However, if it's the middle ear (basically the eardrum) that keeps on getting infected, then there's a tiny risk that this might lead to a permanent hearing loss in the future.

In most cases, eardrum infections are caused by infected fluid trapped behind the ear drum. This only results in temporary and reversible conductive type of hearing loss.

Is your child ignoring you? It could be an infection

Your kid isn't trying to be rude!

Sometimes, severe ear infections can cause hearing loss among kids. If you notice that they aren't responding as promptly as they normally would when you call them or if the TV is turned up louder than usual, it's probably time for a checkup.

Your child's ears could be blocked, or impacted by either wax or infected fluid behind the eardrums.

Don't dig your child's ears with anything, including cotton buds

Child with cotton bud in ear

Keep those itchy hands away from your kid’s ears! It sounds crazy but you may have heard that constant ear cleaning isn't such a good thing after all.

This is even truer when it comes to a child. You may accidentally injure their delicate skin or puncture an eardrum which in turn could lead to permanent hearing loss.

Earwax actually contains natural oils to keep the skin moisturized and healthy! So you should think of it as more of a friend than a foe.

Cigarette smoke and polluted air can also lead to infections

Here’s another reason not to light up: having your kids around smoke puts them risk of ear infections.

Smoke contains loads of irritant chemicals. They can lead to inflammation and congestion of the fragile lining of the nose and Eustachian pressure tubes.

In fact, any kind of smoke, including the polluted air during Singapore's haze seasons, could cause an infection in your kids. Watch out!

A "cold" that lasts for 10-14 days could actually be a sinus infection

True, sinusitis or sinus infection isn't that common in children (since their sinuses are not fully developed until the late teen years).

However, with that being said, a cold that lasts for 10 to 14 days followed by yellow nasal secretions and pain over the cheeks or between the eyes could be a sign of sinus infections.

Sinus infections could stem from a lot of reasons

Child sneezing

Dr Leong states that sinus issues arise because of a variety of reasons. In children, it could actually turn out to be allergic rhinitis (an inflammatory reaction) which leads to constant sneezing.

Sometimes it's a chronically runny nose due to enlarged adenoid tissue (adenoiditis).

The doctor usually prescribes anti-allergy medication. If that doesn’t help the child with adenoiditis to improve, removal of the adenoid tissue may be recommended in order to help the child breathe better.

Kids who snore may have an underlying airway obstruction

Typically, snoring in children is common, and should not be a cause for concern. However, in about 10% of children who snore, it might be a sign of an underlying airway obstruction. This could become a big deal and lead to sleep-related breathing or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

OSA should be treated because it prevents a child from getting good quality sleep, affecting their general wellbeing. As a result, their mental, emotional and behavourial development might be impaired.

Give your children lots of tender loving care

Mother playing with child

You may have realised by now that children are not as hardy as grownups. Kids get more and more susceptible to different ailments as they grow out of their early childhood years.

It is our job to ensure that they get the best protection they need while enjoying their childhoods.

Ever wanted to ask a health question to a specific renowned specialist in Singapore? Human Sessions are when these expert doctors answer all your questions, for free!

You can Ask A Doctor right away, or view the complete list of Human Sessions here.

I hope that you've found this guide useful, and perhaps gained more insight into the application process. Most of the admissions-related information (admin and logistics wise) can be found on the official NUS Faculty of Dentistry website.

To help yourself out, you should take note of what people look for when they look for a dentist.

This article was written by Dr Annabelle Leong and published on Wednesday, 25 January 2017. Human medically reviewed the article on Wednesday, 25 January 2017. The last update was made on Friday, 18 September 2020.

Disclaimer: Opinions belong to the author and not to the platform.

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