Eye ointment

Eye ointments are used when the medicine needs to work directly in your eye to relieve dry eyes or treat eye infections such as conjunctivitis.

On this page, you can find the following information:

Tips when using eye ointment

  • Contact lens: If you normally wear contact lenses, don't wear them until you have finished using the ointment. It could damage your lenses. 
  • Using more than one eye medicine: If you are using both drops and eye ointment in the same eye, always use the drops first, then wait 5 minutes before applying the ointment. If you need to use 2 eye ointments, wait about half an hour before you apply the second eye ointment. This allows enough time for the first eye ointment to be absorbed. 
  • Avoid contamination: Take care not to touch your eyelids or surrounding areas with the ointment tip of the bottle. Close the eye ointment tightly closed when not in use.
  • Sticky eyes: Your eyelashes and eyelids may get sticky when using eye ointment. Gently clean both with a warm, wet washcloth (flannel) or compress after you use the ointment each time. If there is dried ointment left on your lashes or lids, you can also wash the area with a little watered-down baby shampoo, then rinse.

How to apply eye ointment

To get the most benefit, you need to use the correct technique. This makes sure you get the right amount of medicine in your eyes. Ask your healthcare provider to show you. The following steps are a guide:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Remove the cap from the tube.
  • Tilt your head back a little and pull the lower lid of your eye out to form a pocket.
  • Hold the tube upside down near to your eye.
  • Press the tube so a thin line of ointment goes along the inside of your lower eyelid. Avoid touching the tip of the tube against your eye — the medicine must be kept clean.
  • Close your eye and then blink a few times to spread the ointment around the inside of your eye.
  • Your vision may become blurred. If you blink several times after you apply your eye ointment your vision should clear. Try not to rub your eyes.
  • Repeat in your other eye (if both eyes are affected).
  • Replace the cap on the tube so the ointment doesn’t get contaminated. Try not to touch the top of the tube.
  • If you can’t use the ointment yourself, ask a family/whānau member or friend to help you. 

Using eye ointment in babies and children

Applying eye ointment in babies and children can be tricky because they wriggle. You may need help from another adult. The following steps are a guide:

  • Reassure your child that this may feel a bit uncomfortable but it won't hurt. Some ointment may sting at first, but this passes quickly.
  • If your child has been prescribed eye drops as well, apply the eye drops first, wait 5 minutes and then apply the eye ointment.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • For babies or small children, you can wrap them up in a blanket to keep them still.
  • It's best if your child is lying down.
  • Gently lower the eye lid and squeeze the tube so a thin line of ointment is applied in the pocket between the eye and eye lid.
  • The ointment will spread into the eye as your child blinks.
  • Your child's vision will be blurred for a little while after the ointment is applied.
  • Don’t let the tip of the tube touch any part of the eye.
  • If your child needs the ointment in both eyes, repeat in the other eye.
  • Wash your hands again.

For more detailed information see How to give medicines – eye ointment Medicines for Children, UK

Eye ointments have a short expiry date

  • Eye ointments are free from germs (sterile) before the bottle top is opened. 
    • Once it is opened, keep the tube closed in a cool, dark place (unless otherwise advised).
    • Do not let the top of the tube touch your eye, fingers or any other surface. This is to keep it free from germs.
  • Do not let anyone else use your eye ointment and do not use anyone else's eye ointment.
  • Throw out the tube (and get a new one if needed) after the recommended time. This is often 4 weeks after first opening the tube. Do not keep it for longer than advised. Write the date that you open the tube on the label so you will know when it is time to throw it out.
  • Some eye ointments sting or irritate for a short while and some people may be allergic to some eye ointments. Tell your doctor if your eyes get worse after using an eye ointment.

Learn more

How to use eye ointments and gels properly Safe Medication, US

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 19 Apr 2021