Insects in a Child's Ear
Insects may fly into the ear and become trapped when a child is playing outdoors.
Other times, an insect can enter the ear while a child is sleeping. Sometimes the
insect dies after entering the ear. In other cases, it may remain alive and try to
work its way back out of the ear. In either case, the insect can cause fear and discomfort
for a child. The insect should be removed right away.
First-aid for insects in the ear
Calm your child and let them know you can help.
Don't try to remove the insect by poking it with a cotton swab or other probe. This
may push the insect farther into the ear. Or it can damage the middle ear and eardrum.
Tilt your child's head to the side and gently shake it. Don't hit your child's head.
If your child has tubes in their ears or has a history of ear problems, call your
child's healthcare provider right away. The provider can tell you what to do.
If your child does not have tubes or ear problems, follow these tips:
If you think the insect is still alive and it does not come out with gentle head shaking,
pour a small amount of vegetable or baby oil into the ear canal. This will usually
kill the insect.
If you think the insect is dead and it does not come out with gentle head shaking,
pour a small amount of warm water into the ear canal to flush it out. A bulb syringe
like the kind found in over-the-counter earwax removal kits may be helpful. If you
aren't sure the object is an insect, don't put water in the ear canal. If the object
is a tightly wedged seed or bean, water may cause the object to swell.
When should I call my child's healthcare provider?
Your child's healthcare provider will figure out other treatment that your child might
need. In general, call your child's provider:
If your child is so upset they can't be calmed or hold still long enough to touch
the ear and safely remove the object
To have the insect removed if it does not come out after shaking or adding water to
the ear. Insects can damage the inside of the ear by stinging or scratching the eardrum.
If you can remove only parts or pieces of the insect
If your child develops signs of infection. These include pain, fever, or foul smell
or drainage from the ear.