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Safety & Prevention

How to Give Ear Drops to a Child

Has your child's pediatrician has prescribed or recommended ear drops? Following these steps can help ease the process and ensure the drops work properly:

Getting ready

  1. Read all the directions that came with the medicine, and make sure you have the correct bottle.

  2. Wash both your hands and your child's hands.

  3. Rub the medicine bottle between the palms of your hands or place in warm water to warm the drops.

  4. Feel a drop to make sure the drops aren't too hot or too cold.

  5. Ask your child to lie down or sit with the affected ear facing up.

  6. Observe for any discharge (think yellow or green substance), pus (cloudy) or blood in the ear. If there is any, do not give the medicine to your child.

  7. If there is drainage (clear liquid) remove it with a clean tissue or cotton topped applicator. Do NOT clean any more than the outer ear.

Giving the drops

  1. Place the wrist of the hand you will be using to give the medicine on the cheek or head.

  2. Place the dropper/nozzle above your child's ear canal.

    For children under age 3:

    • Gently pull the outer flap of the affected ear DOWNWARD and backward to straighten the ear canal.

    • Look for the ear canal to open.

For children over age 3:

    • Gently pull the outer flap of the affected ear UPWARD and backward to straighten the ear canal.

    • Look for the ear canal to open.

  1. Squeeze the dropper slowly and firmly to release the right amount of medicine on the side of the ear canal.

  2. Try to put the drops in so they can run along the side of the ear canal. This can help let air escape as the medicine flows in.

After giving ear drops

  1. Ask your child to remain lying down for a couple minutes to help the medicine reach the deepest part of the ear canal and be absorbed.

  2. Gently rub the skin in front of the ear or move the ear to help the drops flow to the inside of the ear.

  3. Place a cotton ball in your child's affected ear to help prevent the medicine from leaking out. Replace the cotton ball each time the medicine is given. Avoid putting q-tips into the ear.

  4. Rinse the dropper tip in water after each use before capping or returning it to the bottle.

  5. Replace the cap immediately after use.

  6. Wash your hands and note the time the medication was given.

  7. Be sure to use the drops as directed for the length of time prescribed.

More information

Last Updated
Adapted from Curriculum for Medication Administration in Early Education and Child Care Settings (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2018)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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