5 tips for giving your kid eye drops

Ian passes along his—somewhat successful—tips on giving your child eye drops.

Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

Every Wednesday, Lily comes home from her swimming class complaining about how her eyes are sore from the chlorine in the pool.

Her eyes are often red and irritated, as if she’s just spent the night with Lindsay Lohan on the Vegas strip. When she goes to school for afternoon kindergarten on Wednesday’s, Sonia usually has to send along a cold wet cloth in Lily’s school bag, so she can get some relief in the classroom. (And yes, we’ve tried goggles with Lily, but we’ve yet to find a pair that she’s comfortable with).

Last week, things got so bad with her eyes that Sonia decided to go to the drug store to see if there were any eye drops that were safe for children to use. Sonia came home with some child-friendly eye drops, but then we had a conundrum: Who was going to administer the drops to Lily?

Giving your child eye drops is one of the most annoying and unpleasant tasks in parenthood, because children are never cooperative when they’re being given eye drops for the first time. I would probably have better luck taking our cat’s temperature using a rectal thermometre.

Modern medicine has come a long way in making things more child-friendly in the last 25 years. When I was growing up, there was only one flavour of Tylenol available for kids. It wasn’t chewable and if you didn’t swallow it correctly, it tasted like a crude paste of baking soda and wet cardboard. Now, there are dozens of tutti-frutti flavours of children’s medicine, so giving your kids cough syrup and pain relievers aren’t a huge issue.

But sadly, there have been no amazing advancements in the world of eye drops. Whether it’s 1983 or 2013, parents are still left there to force the eye drops into the child’s eye — usually with unsuccessful results. We’ve had some experience with giving our kids eye drops and this week, I would like to pass along some of our tips.

Here are the five steps to giving your child eye drops:

1. Bribery
There is a 100 percent chance that your child will put up a fight when you try and put eye drops in for the first time. You should start by going to every responsible parent’s number one move: bribery. Start with something small, like the promise of a Hersey’s Kiss or a lollipop. As things start to escalate and tensions rise, you may find yourself promising them a pony or a trip to the Great Wolf Lodge.

2. Watch how Daddy does it
There is also a good chance that the bribery approach will get you nowhere in this situation. So you may have to resort to a demonstration for your child. You can have a bottle of Visine and show your child how painless and easy it is to have drops put in your eye. If you’re anything like me, it takes about six squirts before one drop successfully reaches your eyeball.

3. The one-parent pin-and-drop approach
If you’re still having issues with putting in the drops, you may need to resort to applying a mild amount of physical force. Your child will likely flail their arms and legs, so you simply need to stop them from doing that, while simultaneously forcing one of their eyes open and using a free hand to administer the drop.

4. The two-parent pin-and-drop approach
After realizing the one-parent approach is full of pitfalls, you will require some back-up from another adult. One parent should be responsible for pinning down the child’s extremities, while the other parent can focus solely on putting the drops into the eye. Remember that your child will probably recall this moment in a therapy session 25 years down the road, so try and be as gentle as possible.

5. Wait until they’re asleep
You’ve tried everything with your child awake, so the idea dawns on you: Why not wait until they’re asleep to put in the eye drops? This happened to us once before, when Elissa had an eye infection a few years ago. She absolutely refused to put in the drops during the day, so we waited until the night. We snuck into her room, like we do when we’re the Tooth Fairy. Only this time, instead of leaving a dollar under her pillow, we were going to administer an antibiotic ointment to her eye. The plan absolutely backfired, as she woke up screaming with terror — only to find both of her parents hovered over her with a tube of eye medication.

The bottom line is this: If you’re going to give your child eye drops, you might need a bottle of something else to get you through it as a parent.

What are your methods for administering eye drops to your child?

This article was originally published in February 2013.

Read more:
How to give your kid eye drops
3 common eye problems: What you need to know
The ultimate guide to pink eye

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