Comm Eye Health Vol. 18 No. 53 2005 pp 79. Published online 01 March 2005.

How to instil eye drops

Sue Stevens

International Centre for Eye Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street , London WC1E 7HT, UK.

Related content


  • To aid examination – e.g., dilating the pupil
  • To aid diagnosis – e.g., staining the cornea
  • To treat eye conditions – e.g., antibiotic drops.
How to instil eye drops. ©  Pak Sang Lee
How to instil eye drops. © Pak Sang Lee

You will need

  • Clean swab or paper tissue
  • Prescribed eye drops – these are available in several types of container.


  • Check that the drops are not date-expired
  • Check the patient’s name and eye drops label against the prescription.


  • Remove the cap from the bottle (or the pipette from the bottle)

    If the fluid is discoloured, do not use!

  • Ask the patient to look up
  • With the index finger of one hand take a folded swab or paper tissue to gently hold down the lower eyelid

    Do not make the eyelid turn out too much as instilled drops may fall out on to the cheek.

  • With the bottle or pipette held in the other hand, between thumb and index finger, rest the side of the hand against the patient’s forehead above the affected eye
  • With the dropper about five centimetres above the eye, squeeze the bottle or pipette rubber and allow one or two drops to fall inside the central part of the lower eyelid

    Do not allow the drop to fall on to the cornea as this can be painful and may alarm the patient and cause loss of confidence.

    Do not allow the bottle or pipette to touch the eyelid skin or eye lashes as it will cease to be sterile and need to be discarded.

  • Ask the patient to close the eye and wipe away any surplus fluid.


  • Secure the bottle top