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How to give medicines: ear drops and sprays

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How to give: ear drops and sprays

This leaflet gives tips about how to give ear drops and sprays to children. 

This leaflet is for parents and carers about how to give ear medicines to children. Our information sometimes differs from that provided by the manufacturers, because their information is usually aimed at adults. Please read this leaflet carefully. Keep it somewhere safe so that you can read it again.

Ear drops/sprays or sprays

Medicines for the ear are available as drops or sprays.

Before you give ear drops or sprays

  • Use the ear drops/spray only in the affected ear, unless your doctor has told you to treat both ears.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before and after giving the drops/spray. 
  • You may need help from another adult to give ear drops/spray to your child. One of you can hold the child in a safe position while the other gives the drops/spray. For a baby or small child, you may find it helpful to wrap them in a blanket to help keep them still.
  • If using an ear spray for the first time, or if you haven’t used the spray for over a week, shake well and press the pump down several times until you get a fine spray.
  • Make sure not to point the nozzle at yourself or anyone else as you do this.
  • The spray is now ready for use.

How to give ear drops or sprays

  • Gently shake the bottle of ear drops/spray.
  • Your child needs to have their head tilted to one side. Try resting their head on a pillow.
  • Gently pull your child’s earlobe backwards to open up the ear canal.
  • If you notice any discharge (yellow, green or cloudy substance) or blood that wasn’t there before, contact your doctor. Do not give the drops/spray.
  • Put the tip of the dropper or spray just inside the ear hole. Try to avoid touching the nozzle on to the ear.
  • Gently squeeze the prescribed amount of drop(s) into the ear. If using a spray, press the pump once to deliver the correct amount.
  • Your child should keep their head tilted to one side for a few minutes so the medicine can spread inside the ear.
  • Wipe the nozzle with a clean tissue after each use.
  • If you think the drops didn’t go into the ear, you can repeat the process but do not try more than twice.
  • Try to avoid touching any part of your child’s ear with the nozzle.
  • Wash your hands again with soap and hot water.
  • If your child needs drops/spray in both ears, repeat the above steps with the other ear facing upwards.
  • Put the cap back on the bottle of ear drops/spray.

General information about ear drops and sprays

  • Your doctor will tell you how long you need to use the ear drops/spray for. This information should be on the medicine label. You may want to make a note in your diary or phone to remind you when they were started. 
  • Some ear drops/sprays can only be used for a limited time once opened. This will be stated on the medicine label or the packaging. After this period the ear drops/spray should not be used. If your child needs to use the ear drops/spray for longer you will need to get a new supply from your doctor.
  • Ear drops/sprays that are past their “use by” date should be returned to your pharmacist to dispose of.
  • Make sure that children cannot see or reach the medicine. Keep the ear drops/spray in a cupboard, away from heat and direct sunlight. 
  • You may need to keep some ear drops/spray in the fridge – check the instructions on the bottle. Make sure they do not freeze.
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Publication date: 
18/04/2019