Ear: Itchy

What causes an itchy ear?

When your child repeatedly scratches his ear or complains that it itches, it could be caused by:

  • Water that builds up during swimming or showers
  • Soap or shampoo retention; or
  • Ear canal irritation from cotton swabs

Cotton swabs can push in the earwax and cause the ear canal to be blocked. In teens, it can remove the earwax that normally protects the lining of the ear canal, and this leads to itching and irritation.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Wash out the ear with white vinegar diluted in half with water. White vinegar has acetic acid in it and can usually restore the ear canal to its normal chemistry.
  • Fill one ear canal at a time with white vinegar. Do this by running the vinegar down the side of the opening so that air doesn’t get trapped under it.
  • Leave it in for 5 minutes, then remove it with gravity by turning down the side of the head and wiggling the earlobe.
  • Do this twice a day for 3 or 4 days.

How can I help prevent this problem?

  • Keep soap and shampoo out of the ear canal.
  • Don’t use cotton swabs in the ear canal.
  • After swimming, get all water out of the ear canals by turning the head to the side and pulling the earlobe in different directions to help the water run out.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Call during office hours if:

  • The ear canals itch for over a week.
  • The ear becomes painful.
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-06-10
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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