How to give your child ear drops or spray

This page explains how to give your child ear drops or spray and how to look after these types of medicine.

What to do

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Get your child into any of these positions, with the ear you are treating facing upwards:
    • Tilt your child’s head back and to one side.
    • Lay your child flat on his or her back.
    • Ask someone to hold your child in a safe position as above.
    • Wrap your baby or young child in a light blanket or sheet to keep his or her arms and legs still.
  3. Shake the bottle or spray.
  4. Remove the top of the bottle or spray and throw away the plastic seal.
  5. Gently pull your child’s earlobe backwards to open up the ear canal.
  6. Put the prescribed amount of drops or spray into the ear canal.
  7. Keep your child in this position for a few minutes so the drops or spray can spread inside the ear.
  8. If your child needs drops or spray in the other ear, turn him or her over so that the other ear is facing upwards and repeat the above steps.
  9. Put the top back on the bottle or spray.

Looking after your child’s ear drops or spray

  • Always check the expiry date of the medicine before giving it to your child.
  • Keep the bottle or spray tightly closed in a cool, dark place according to the label.
  • Read the instructions on the label and only use the drops or spray in the affected ear(s).
  • Ear drops or sprays should not be used longer than stated on the label. If you are giving your child ear drops or spray for a certain number of days, write the date you open the bottle on the label so you will know when to throw it away.
  • Keep all medicines out of the reach of children.

If you have any questions about your child’s ear drops, please ask your family doctor (GP) or local community pharmacist.

Compiled by: 
The Pharmacy department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group.
Last review date: 
April 2020


Please read this information sheet from GOSH alongside the patient information leaflet (PIL) provided by the manufacturer. If you do not have a copy of the manufacturer’s patient information leaflet please talk to your pharmacist. A few products do not have a marketing authorisation (licence) as a medicine and therefore there is no PIL.

For children in particular, there may be conflicts of information between the manufacturer’s patient information leaflet (PIL) and guidance provided by GOSH and other healthcare providers. For example, some manufacturers may recommend, in the patient information leaflet, that a medicine is not given to children aged under 12 years. In most cases, this is because the manufacturer will recruit adults to clinical trials in the first instance and therefore the initial marketing authorisation (licence) only covers adults and older children.  

For new medicines, the manufacturer then has to recruit children and newborns into trials (unless the medicine is not going to be used in children and newborns) and subsequently amend the PIL with the approved information. Older medicines may have been used effectively for many years in children without problems but the manufacturer has not been required to collect data and amend the licence. This does not mean that it is unsafe for children and young people to be prescribed such a medicine ‘off-licence/off-label’. However, if you are concerned about any conflicts of information, please discuss with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.