Let’s be real: Putting drops in your eyes isn’t always the easiest task. Many people just tilt their head back, try to aim, and hope for the best. But whether it’s over-the-counter drops for dry eyes, prescription drops for treating glaucoma, or another eye condition, your eye drops aren’t going to get the job done unless they’re applied correctly.
But don’t worry! With the helpful tips you’ll find in this guide (yeah, we’ll toot our own horn—they’re pretty helpful!) and some practice, we’re sure you’ll feel more confident. Read along to learn the easiest way to put in eye drops, as well as some additional tricks for when aiming that tiny bottle gets difficult.
How to Put in Eye Drops Correctly—A Step by Step Guide
The best way to put in eye drops is by following the steps listed below. If needed, repeat these steps for the other eye and for subsequent drops.
1. Get Prepared
Before applying eye drops, it’s a good idea to get yourself ready by doing the following:
- Read all directions, including those on the box of eye drops and any special instructions provided by your eye doctor.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes or handling eye drops.
- Remove contact lenses if you’re wearing them. Most eye drops require the removal of contacts, but there are some that don’t (i.e., some brands of preservative-free artificial tears). Check with your eye doctor if you’re unsure.
- Shake the bottle of eye drops well and then remove the cap, placing it on a paper towel or tissue (rather than the counter) to keep it clean. Ideally, if you can keep the cap in hand while applying your drops, that would be even better for hygiene. Just try to avoid touching the inner surface of the cap—we don’t want germs getting in.
2. Tilt Your Head Back and Pull Down Your Lower Eyelid
Tilt your head back a bit, and look up toward the ceiling with your eyes. (It might help to find a specific spot on the ceiling to focus on.)
Place your index finger below your eye and pull down. Pulling the lower eyelid downward will create a little pocket—perfect for catching eye drops.
3. Apply a Drop
With your free hand, hold the bottle over your eye with the tip facing down. Without letting the dropper tip touch your eye, try to get it as close to your eye as possible. For more support and a steadier aim, try resting the hand that’s holding the bottle against your forehead.
Make sure you’re still looking up. Squeeze the bottle gently to allow a single drop to fall into the eyelid pouch you’ve made.
4. Close Your Eye and Press Your Finger on Your Tear Duct
Try to ignore that urge to blink rapidly or squeeze your eyes tightly shut. Instead, release your pull on the eyelid and gently close your eye. With your eye shut, use your index finger to press gently on the tear duct (the inside corner of your eye) to keep the drop from getting into your nose and throat.
Keep your eye closed with your finger applying pressure for a minimum of 30 seconds to give your eye time to fully absorb the medicine. (For certain drops, your doctor may recommend doing this for longer—up to two minutes.)
Tada! You did it! (We knew you could.) You can now repeat these steps for the other eye, if applicable. If you need to apply more than one drop to an eye, wait a good five minutes before applying the next drop—this ensures that the eye drop is fully absorbed and able to work its magic. Wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done applying drops to remove any excess from your hands.
Additional Tips for Putting Eye Drops In
Here are some additional tips and reminders to keep in mind whenever you need to use eye drops.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before handling eye drops or touching your eyes.
- Follow all instructions exactly (both on the box and from your eye doctor, who may have specific steps to follow).
- Wait five minutes in between drop applications to the same eye. This ensures the eye drop has enough time to be fully absorbed in the eye and doesn’t just get flushed out by the next drop.
- Wash your hands again when you’re done applying your eye drops to get any excess off your hands.
- Discuss any questions you have with your eye doctor to ensure you’re putting in your eye drops correctly.
- Don’t let the tip of the eye drop bottle touch your eye or eyelid, and don’t touch it with your hands. This can transfer bacteria to the bottle tip, which can then contaminate the drops.
- Don’t wear contacts when applying eye drops unless your eye doctor has approved this method and your drops are made for use with contact lenses.
- Don’t use eye drops that have expired. Over time, eye drops can become less effective, and they’re also more likely to become contaminated once the bottle has been opened.
- Don’t worry if some liquid flows out of your eye and onto your skin when applying an eye drop. This doesn’t mean you need to apply more drops or that the drop you applied won’t be effective. (Unless, of course, you missed your eye completely and simply watered your cheek.)
- Don’t share eye drops with others—doing so could spread germs.
If You’re Still Having Trouble Applying Eye Drops
If you’re still struggling with putting drops in your eyes, here are some ideas to ease the process.
My hands are shaking
Rather than approaching from the top with the bottle and resting your hand on your forehead, try coming in from the side and resting your hand across the chin and the side of your lips. This approach can offer more support for your hand to help keep you steady.
Alternatively, you could try resting your hand on the hand that’s pulling open your eyelid—do whatever feels the most comfortable for you.
I keep flinching or missing my eye
Try lying down with your head tilted back and your eye closed. Squeeze the drop into the inner corner of your eye, and then pull your eyelid down with your finger and open your eye slightly until you feel the drop roll into your eye. Release your eyelid, close your eye, and press your finger gently on your tear duct as described above in step four.
I’m having trouble keeping a good hold of the bottle
It can be tough to hold onto a small bottle of eye drops securely. If that’s the case for you, try wrapping something like a washcloth or paper towel around the bottle to widen it and give you a better grip.
When it Comes to Aiming Eye Drops, Practice Makes Perfect
Learning how to put in eye drops may seem daunting—maybe even impossible—but we believe you’ll get the hang of it after a few (okay, possibly more than a few) tries. We hope the steps and tips you’ve found here have been helpful.
If you continue having trouble applying eye drops, try having a family member or friend help you, or contact your eye doctor for further advice.