The Do’s and Don’ts of Eye Drops

Woman applying eye drops

Are You Using Your Eye Drops Correctly?

Eye drops ease redness, itching, and dry eye and also treats eye conditions ranging from glaucoma to infections. Unfortunately, the drops won't be effective if you don't use them properly. These eye drops do's and don'ts will help make sure that you benefit from the drops.

  • Do Start with Clean Hands. You may unwittingly transfer bacteria from your hands to your eyes if you don't wash your hands with soapy water before you use eye drops. If you're away from home and a sink isn't available, use hand sanitizer before applying drops.
  • Don't Use Eye Drops in These Circumstances. Germs can contaminate the tip of the dropper bottle if you drop the uncapped bottle on the floor or touch the tip with unclean hands. Throw out the bottle if this happens.
  • Do Take Out Your Contact Lenses. Unless you're using contact lens wetting drops, you'll need to remove your lenses before using eye drops. Wait for at least 15 to 20 minutes before putting your contacts back in your eyes (or longer, depending on your eye doctor's instructions).
  • Do Tilt Your Head. Tilt your head back or lie down when using eye drops. Pull down gently on your bottom eyelid, then squeeze a drop in your eye. Keep the dropper about an inch from your eye. Close your eyes after putting in the drop to increase absorption.
  • Don't Waste the Drop. Eye drops may not relieve your symptoms if they drain from your eyes too quickly. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends gently pressing on the area where your eye meets your nose to prevent drops from immediately draining through your tear ducts.
  • Don't Use More Drops than Recommended. Using more drops won't improve the effectiveness of the medication. If you squeeze too many drops in your eye, some of them will be washed away and wasted.
  • Do Follow the Instructions on the Label. It may take longer for your eye problem or condition to improve if you don't follow the instructions. If you're using prescription eye drops, be sure to use them as long as your ophthalmologist recommends. Stopping the eye drops too soon, even if your eye feels better, could worsen your condition or infection.
  • Don't Reuse Prescription Eye Drops. It may seem a shame to throw away a bottle of eye drops if you still have some left. Unfortunately, the drops may not be sterile if you decide to use them a few months from now. Using old drops could lead to an eye infection or could allow your symptoms to worsen if the drops are no longer effective. Don't use old drops without checking with your eye doctor first, even if you have the same condition or think you have the same condition.
  • Do Space Out Eye Drops. Do you need to take more than one kind of eye drop? Wait 5 or 10 minutes before applying the next medication. Waiting ensures that the first drop is completely absorbed by your eye.
  • Do Store Your Drops Out of the Reach of Children. Curious kids have gotten very sick by drinking eye drops used to reduce redness. The drops contain tetrahydrozoline, an ingredient that could cause slow breathing and heartbeat, drowsiness, low body temperature, or coma, according to the AAO. Ingredients in other types of drops could also cause problems if someone accidentally drinks them.

Do you have a question about your eye drops or need to schedule an appointment? Contact our office to schedule an appointment or get more information about how to use your eye medication.


American Academy of Ophthalmology: How to Put in Eye Drops, 3/10/21

American Academy of Ophthalmology: Red-Eye Drops: Poisonous to Drink, Safe If Used Correctly

All About Vision: How to Put in Eye Drops, 4/21

The Do’s and Don’ts of Eye Drops