Softening impacted ear wax

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To remove impacted cerumen, instill liquid docusate (Colace) for five minutes, then wash out.
—Smitha Manoj, MD, Metuchen, N.J.

Colace is frequently used in pediatric ERs to remove earwax. This agent has the added advantage of being readily available. Other OTC solutions are basically water, peroxide, or oil-based solutions (some use olive oil or baby oil).

Although the data on these are not great, a recent Cochrane review showed that they all work about the same (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2003[3]:CD004400). It must be noted, however, that none of these preparations should be used if there is perforation of the tympanic membrane.
—Susan Kashaf, MD, MPH

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