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Insects in the Ear

  • When children play outside, especially in the warmer months, it's not unusual for insects to fly into the ear and become trapped. Sometimes, the insect dies after entering the ear; other times, it may remain alive and attempt to work its way back out of the ear. In either case, the insect can cause fear and discomfort for your child, and the insect should be removed immediately.

    Children's Hospital Boston
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115

  • How can I treat this right away?

    • Calm and reassure your child.
    • Do not attempt to remove the insect by poking it with a cotton swab or similar probe. This may push the insect farther into the ear or cause damage to the middle ear and eardrum.
    • Tilt your child's head to the side and gently shake (do not hit) it.
    • If your child has tubes in his/her ears or has a history of ear problems, call your child's physician immediately for further treatment recommendations.
    • If your child does not have tubes or ear problems:
      • 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 suffocate 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.

    When should I call my child's physician?

    Specific treatment for insects in the ear that require more than minor treatment at home will be determined by your child's physician. In general, call your child's physician:

    • to have the insect removed if it does not come out after shaking or irrigation; insects can cause damage to the inside of the ear by stinging or scratching the eardrum
    • if you are able to remove only parts or pieces of the insect
    • if your child develops signs of infection, such as a fever or foul smell or drainage from the ear
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