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Blocked Tear Duct in Children: Care Instructions


Tears normally drain from the eye through small tubes called tear ducts, which stretch from the eye into the nose. In babies, a blocked tear duct occurs when these tubes get blocked or do not open properly. This can cause your child's eye to be teary and produce a yellowish white substance. If a tear duct remains blocked, the tear duct sac fills with fluid and may become swollen and inflamed. Sometimes it can get infected.

In most cases, babies born with a blocked tear duct do not need treatment. The duct tends to open up on its own by the time your child is 6 months old. If the duct does not open, a procedure called probing can be used to open it. In the meantime, you can take care of your child at home by keeping the eye clean. This can help prevent infection. If the duct gets infected, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Keep your child's eye clean:
    • Moisten a clean cotton ball or face cloth with warm (not hot) water, and gently wipe from the inner (near the nose) to the outer part of the eye. With each wipe, use a new or clean part of the cotton ball or face cloth.
    • If your child's eyelashes are crusty with mucus, clean them with a moist cotton ball using a gentle, downward motion. If the eyelids get stuck together, place a clean, warm, wet cotton ball over that eye for a few minutes to help loosen the crust.
  • Massage your child's tear duct. Press gently on the inner corner of the eye in a downward motion. Make sure that your hands are clean and your nails are short.
  • If the doctor prescribed antibiotic pills, eyedrops, or ointment for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child's eye gets better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • To put in eyedrops or ointment:
    • Tilt your child's head back, and pull the lower eyelid down with one finger.
    • Drop or squirt the medicine inside the lower lid.
    • Close your child's eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the drops or ointment move around.
    • Do not touch the ointment or dropper tip to the eyelashes or any other surface.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased swelling and redness in or around the eye, eyelid, or nose.
    • Pus draining from the eye.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • The drainage from your child's eye gets worse.
  • The tear duct does not open up by the time your child is 6 months old.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.