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Administering Eye and Ear Meds

Eye Medications

Giving eye medicines can be a huge challenge, especially in a young child. Our eyes have reflexes to prevent anything from getting in them. Those reflexes are normally helpful, but they work against the parent who is trying to put a medication in a child’s eye. Here are some Quick Tips - detailed information follows:

Check the label or ask your doctor or pharmacist about storage. Some eye medicines should be refrigerated. Most will be fine at room temperature. Please remember that the eye is very sensitive to temperature, so if you’ve stored eye medicine in the fridge, warm it up between your hands or in a glass of warm (not hot) tap water. Please NEVER put any medicine in the microwave to heat it – this can rapidly bring the temperature to very dangerous levels. Please be sure to wash your child’s face before applying eye medications, to avoid getting dirt, pollen, or other foreign material into the eye along with the medicine. Be sure to wash your hands before and after giving medication in the eye. This will help prevent the spread of infection. In a busy household, it can become easy to forget which eye you are treating. Please ask your doctor to include which eye is being treated on the prescription. That way the pharmacist will include it right on the label. If it isn’t on the label, please mark the medicine container(s) yourself as soon as you pick them up from the pharmacy. Some children have allergic reactions to some medicines – please stop using eye medicine immediately if redness, itching, or pain get worse, or if blurry vision lasts more than half an hour after you put the medicine in the eye.

Quick Tips for Eye Medicines

  • Double-check the container – be sure you’re giving the right medicine in the correct eye
  • Wash your hands and your child’s face
  • Gently warm refrigerated medicine
  • Open the container before you start
  • If itching, redness, pain, or blurry vision last more than 30 minutes after a dose, call the doctor

When you are ready to actually apply the medicine, please do the following before you have your child get ready:

  • PLEASE BE SURE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT CONTAINER – some glue and other dangerous products come packaged in small tubes or little squeeze bottles. Many eye and ear medicines come packaged similarly. Double checking the label will help avoid dangerous mistakes.
  •  Please be sure you have removed the cap from the bottle or tube before you get into position to apply the medicine,
  • Please be sure that cap is put somewhere safe where you can find it immediately, and where no small child will pick it up and choke on it.
  • After you finish giving the medicine, please rinse the tip of the bottle or tube in warm water, wipe it dry with a clean cloth, and replace the cap immediately.

Eye Drops

Some eye drops sting and others don’t. Almost all drops are uncomfortable when they first get onto the surface of the eye. You can reduce this discomfort by gently warming the drops first. The best way to get eye drops into the eye reliably is to have your child squeeze his or her eyes closed as tightly as possible (s/he will want to do this anyway). Ask your child to tip his or her head back, and then put the right number of drops into the inner corner of the correct eye. Ask your child to open his or her eyes, and the drops will naturally flow onto the eye. This gives your child a little control over the situation, and can help reduce the struggle. Some blurry vision is normal for a few minutes, especially if your child had his or her eyes closed very tightly.

Quick Tips for Eye Drops

  1. Tip child’s head back and have him/her squeeze both eyes closed
  2. Put drops in inner corner of closed eye(s)
  3. Have child open eyes
  4. Drops will run in

Eye Ointment

Most eye ointments don’t sting much, which is why many doctors prefer them for smaller children. To apply an eye ointment with a minimum of fuss:

  1. Place the fingers of your non-dominant hand (left hand if you are right-handed, right if you are left-handed) along your child’s forehead
  2. Place the thumb of that hand gently on the child’s cheek just below the lower eyelid
  3. Gently pull down on the cheek skin with your thumb.
  4. This will cause the lower lid to curl outward – you should see the thin pink “shelf” of the lining of the lower lid.
  5. Using your other hand, gently apply the ointment along that thin pink “shelf.” Start at the inner corner of the eye and smoothly move across to the outer corner.
  6. Try to avoid touching the actual surface of either the lid or the eye itself – they are both very sensitive.

Quick Tips for Eye Ointment

  1. Tip child’s head back or lay infant on lap or bed
  2. Pull lower lid down and out with thumb
  3. Apply ointment along thin pink “shelf” of lower lid lining
  4. Release lid

Ear Medicines, General Information

Ear medicines are easier to give than eye drops or ointment. Smaller children may fuss about having the ear drops put in, but they rarely cause stinging or burning, and most children rapidly forget that they have the medicine in their ears. Ear drops are almost always made in a thickened form, which helps them stay in the ear. Your doctor may have put tiny “wicks” in the ear(s). Wicks are small absorbent pads that soak up the medicine and help hold it in the ear. If your doctor put wicks in your child’s ears, please don’t remove them unless the doctor asks you to.

Most ear medications do not need to be refrigerated, but please check the label and ask your doctor for instructions. Since cold ear drops are very uncomfortable, don’t refrigerate them unless you have to, and if you do, please warm them up in your hands or under warm running water before you put them in your child’s ears. Please NEVER use a microwave to warm or heat any medicine – it can become boiling hot in just a second or two.  Here are some Quick Tips - detailed information follows:

Ear drops

Quick Tips for Ear Drops

  1. Get a helper!
  2. Place infant on tummy, toddler on helper’s lap facing helper.
  3. Gently pull up and back on top of ear to straighten canal.
  4. Apply drops per package directions.
  5. Gently massage “bump” in front of canal (the tragus) to push medication in.

For a child who is old enough to cooperate, putting in ear drops can be quite easy. Simply have your child lie down on a comfortable surface like a bed or couch. Ask him or her to lay his or her head on the arms, as if lying down for a nap. Have your child turn his or her head so the ear you need to medicate is up.

For an infant or toddler, you will most likely need a second person (adult or teen) to help you. The best way to accomplish this is to have your helper hold the baby facing him or her, against his or her chest, just like carrying the baby. Have your helper then lie down on his or her back or against some cushions or pillows (like on a couch). Ask your helper to gently hold one arm across the baby’s back and use the other arm and hand to hold the baby’s head against his or her chest. Most babies will feel secure in this position if they know the person. You can then use both of your own hands to
put the drops in as described next:

Gently pull up and back on the top part of the ear itself. This will help to straighten out the ear canal. (Try not to do this if your child has “Swimmer’s Ear,” or Otitis Externa. Moving the ear in that condition is very painful). Using the dropper or applicator supplied with the medicine, put the right number of drops in your child’s ear. Next, gently massage the skin just in front of the little “bump” at the front of the ear (doctors call this bump the “tragus). This helps the medicine to trickle down the ear canal to where it needs to go.

If you are giving anesthetic (pain relieving) drops such as Auralgan®, Auroto® and others, it’s very important to keep the child lying down for five full minutes to allow the drops to reach the eardrum, which is the painful area. If you are treating a “swimmer’s ear” or other condition, it is less crucial to get the drops all the way to the eardrum itself.

Cautions: Unless your doctor specifically tells you to, please don’t put medicine in a child’s ear if there is blood or pus coming out of the ear that was not there before. This could indicate a ruptured eardrum, and some medicines can harm the middle ear if they get past the eardrum.

If your child has“tubes” or “grommets” in the ear: these devices work by allowing air to enter and leave the middle ear space. If they are draining pus or blood, it means the ear is infected. Some doctors recommend using antibiotic ear drops when this happens. Please do this only
if your doctor recommends it. If s/he does, here’s how to do it:

  1. Have your child lie down as described above
  2. Put the drops in the ear
  3. Massage the drops in by gently pushing up and down on the “tragus,” the small bump in front of the ear.
  4. This will help to “pump” the drops through the tube or grommet into the infected part of the ear.
  5. If this hurts your child, stop right away, and let your doctor know.