Eye ointment: How to apply

Your child's doctor prescribed eye ointment for your child's eyes. Eye ointment is a medicine. This page explains how to put eye ointment into your child's eyes.

At the doctor's office

  • Ask the eye doctor why your child needs the eye ointment. Also ask the doctor about any side effects or reactions your child may get from the ointment. ​
  • Tell the doctor if your child has any allergies to medicine or other things.
  • Tell the doctor about all medicines your child is taking. This includes medicines that were prescribed or bought over the counter.
  • Make sure you know which eye the ointment is for. You can ask the doctor to point and show you the eye.
  • Tell the doctor if your child wears contact lenses.
  • Make sure you have the correct prescription before you leave.

At the pharmacy

  • Tell the pharmacist if your child has any allergies to medicines or anything else.
  • Ask the pharmacist about any side effects and reactions your child can get from the eye ointment.
  • Check that you received the correct eye ointment.
  • Check the expiry date on the ointment tube. An expiry or expiration date is the date that a medicine should be thrown away. 
  • If you are not sure which eye the eye ointment is for, ask the pharmacist.

What to do if your child needs eye ointment and eye drops 

If your child's doctor has ordered eye drops for the same eye, put the drops in first. If more than one kind of drops is ordered for the same eye, wait five to 10 seconds between applying each kind of drop. 

When you have finished putting in eye drops​, wait five to 10 seconds before you apply the ointment. Always apply the ointment last.

Before you apply the eye ointment

  • When applying eye ointment, always watch your child closely.
  • Before you begin, wash your hands with soap and water and dry them well.
  • Make sure you have the correct eye ointment. Read the instructions on the label.
  • When you open the ointment tube, label the tube with the date and month you first opened it. Do not use the tube of ointment after 1 month from the date it was opened.
  • Make sure you are applying the ointment in the correct eye.

How to apply eye ointment

  1. ​​Hold the tube, with the cap on, in your closed hand to warm it. This helps the ointment flow better.
  2. Take the cap off the tube. Put the cap on its side on a clean surface, such as a clean tissue. Be careful that the tip of the tube does not touch your child's eyes, your fingers, or any other surfaces.
  3. Keep a separate box of tissues to use for the eyes only.
  4. Have your child sit or lie down. Tilt his head back and ask him to look up at the ceiling. With children younger than 3 years of age, it is easier to apply the ointment if the child is wrapped in a blanket or a towel to keep him from moving his arms.
  5. Hold your child's forehead steady with one hand. Raise the upper eye lid of the affected eye with the thumb of the same hand. If you are right-handed, it is easier to be on the right side of your child and steady the forehead with the left hand. If you are left-handed, it is easier to be on the left side of your child and steady the forehead with the right hand.
  6. Use the other hand to hold the ointment tube with the thumb and the index finger.
  7. Position the ointment tube above the eye it is to be applied.
  8. Using the little finger of the same hand that is holding the tube, pull the lower eyelid down gently to form a pocket-like opening.
  9. Gently squeeze a small amount of ointment (about 1/2 inch or the size of a grain of rice) inside this pocket.
  10. Gently release the lower eyelid. Keep holding your child's forehead.
  11. Gently release the upper eyelid. Keep holding your child's forehead.
  12. If your child can follow instructions, ask him to close his eyes gently and to look up with his eyes closed. This helps the medicine work better. Closing the eye tightly or blinking more than usual will remove the medicine.
  13. Wipe off any excess ointment around the eye with a separate clean tissue.
  14. Let go of your child's forehead. ​

After applying the eye ointment

  • After applying the eye ointment, wipe the tip of the ointment tube with a clean tissue. Put the cap back on the ointment tube.
  • Wash your hands again with soap and water and dry them well.
  • Store the eye ointment out of children's reach.
  • Some eye ointment may cause blurred vision. If your child's vision is blurry, watch your child's activities.

When to call the doctor

If your child has a reaction to the eye ointment or drops, or your child's eye condition gets worse, tell the doctor who prescribed the medicine.

The name of my child's doctor is:_____________________________________.

The phone number is:_____________________________________________.

Key points

  • Always make sure you have the correct ointment and put it in the correct eye.
  • Talk to your child's doctor and pharmacist about possible side effects, reactions, or allergies your child may have or may get with the eye ointment.
  • Put in eye drops before eye ointment.
  • Cleanliness is key. Wash your hands before and after putting in eye ointment. Do not let the tip of the ointment tube touch anything, including your child's eyes, your fingers, or other surfaces.

Yasmin Shariff, RN

At SickKids

If your doctor is not available, call the hospital at 416-813-7500 and ask to speak to the eye doctor on call.​​