Administering eye drops to small children can be difficult for parents and kids alike – and rest assured, it isn’t always easy for doctors, either.
“It’s daunting at times for parents and physicians,” says CHOC ophthalmologist Dr. Sidney Weiss.
Eye drops may be prescribed for a variety of conditions including infections, allergies and dry eyes, pupil dilation in advance of an ophthalmologist appointment, and medical diagnosis therapies, he says.
And because eye drop administration can be challenging, Dr. Weiss has a few tips to help smooth this process.
Working with a partner to administer eye drops in kids
With the help of a parent, older children can receive eye drops while seated or standing, with their head tilted back so that their eyes create a horizontal plane, Dr. Weiss says. After age 10, children can try with supervision to administer the drops themselves.
However, giving drops to infants and children up to age 3, as well as some older children with developmental delays, can be especially challenging and often requires restraining the child. In these cases, parents should try to find a partner to help.
Try laying the child on the floor, in a chair or in someone’s lap. While one person holds the child’s arms and legs still, the other can administer the drops. Dr. Weiss recommends asking the child to open his eyes and look back as far as possible, as if he were trying to see the back of his head.
While gently holding the child’s upper eyelid open, lightly pinch together the bottom eyelid to create a small pouch. Squeeze the drops into the pouch and ask the child to keep the eye closed for 30 seconds.
The drop administrator should also put a finger over the closed eyelid near the inner corner to prevent absorption of the medicine into the tear duct, which can be harmful.
Should a parent need to restrain the child to administer drops and another person isn’t available to help, Dr. Weiss suggests this method:
While sitting on the floor, the parent should lay the child in his or her lap, with the child’s head at the parent’s abdomen facing the ceiling and the child’s legs extending along the parent’s legs. Place the child’s arms under the parent’s legs. The parent can also wrap one leg around the child’s legs to keep him or her still.
Administer the drops using the method described above.
Working around closed eyes
Sometimes, even with another grownup to help, kids just won’t open their eyes, Dr. Weiss says.
In these cases, take advantage of closed eyes with this technique: Have the child lie down with their eyes closed. Place the drops in the inner corner of their eyes to create a little pool of medicine. Once the child opens his or her lids, the drops will dribble into their eye, Dr. Weiss says.
“This may waste some medicine, but any port in a storm,” he says, adding that this method can also work while the child sleeps.
General eye drop tips
Besides positioning, parents can try a few other techniques to make administering eye drops easier and safer, Dr. Weiss suggests:
- Before administering, parents should take a minute to double check that they are using the correct drops.
- Gather all necessary materials (drops, tissues, wash cloths, etc.) and wash hands before and after administering eye drops to a child.
- To avoid contamination, don’t touch the tip of the bottle to any surface, including the eye, eyelid or eye lashes. Use alcohol to sanitize the tip if there’s any chance of contact.
- Try to appear as relaxed as possible. Babies and children can tell if their parent or caregiver is distraught and will respond accordingly.
- Try to create a calm, soothing environment and explain to older children what you’re doing and why.
Learn more about CHOC’s Otolaryngology Program
At CHOC, our pediatric otolaryngologists provide comprehensive care for children of all ages – from newborns to teens – with conditions of the ears, nose, throat (ENT).