Eye ointment

Eye ointments are used when it is necessary for the medication to work directly in the eye such as:

  • to relieve dry eyes (called eye lubricants)
  • to treat allergy symptoms such as redness, itching and watery eyes
  • antibiotic eye ointments to treat eye infections such as conjunctivitis.

How to apply eye ointment

To get the most benefit use the correct technique. This ensures you receive the right amount of medication. Ask your healthcare provider to show you. The following is a guide:< /p>

  • Wash your hands first.
  • Sit or stand in front of a mirror.
  • 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 the lower eyelid. Try not to touch your eye.
  • 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 member or friend to help you. 

Applying eye ointment in babies & 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 will not hurt. Some ointment may sting at first, but this will pass 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.
  • Its best if your child is lying down.
  • Gently lower the eye lid and squeeze the tube so that 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

More about eye ointments

  • 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 yourself.
  • Throw out the tube (and get a new one if required) after the recommended time. This is often four 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, some people may be allergic to some eye ointments. Tell your doctor if your eyes get worse after using an eye ointment.

Contact lenses

Do not wear contact lenses whilst using eye ointments unless otherwise advised. (Some eye ointments stay in soft contact lenses and may cause harm.)

Using other eye ointments or drops

If you need to use two 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. If you have been prescribed an eye drop and an eye ointment, apply the eye drop first. Wait five minutes and then apply your eye ointment.

Learn more

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

Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 14 May 2017