Can you use eye drops in ears?

If you’ve ever run out of ear drops and wondered whether you could use your eye drops instead, you’re not alone. It’s a common question, and the answer isn’t always straightforward. While both ear and eye drops are meant to treat different parts of the body, they can sometimes have similar ingredients which could make it tempting to try a swap. In this article, we will explore whether it is safe to use eye drops in ears and what effects it may have on the ears.

Eye drops vs Ear drops

The first thing to note is that ear and eye drops are designed for different purposes. Ear drops are designed to be used specifically in the ear canal to help alleviate symptoms such as itching, pain, and swelling. They may contain ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide, glycerin, or antibiotics, depending on the underlying cause of the ear problem. On the other hand, eye drops are formulated to be used in the eyes to treat redness, itching, dryness, or infection. They usually contain active ingredients like antihistamines, beta-blockers, or steroids that are intended to treat inflammation and other eye issues.

Contents of Eye Drops

The contents of eye drops may vary between brands and the specific purpose for which they are intended. Some common active ingredients of eye drops include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Beta-blockers
  • Steroids
  • Lubricants
  • Preservatives
  • Decongestants
  • Antibiotics

Risks of using eye drops in ears

While eye drops and ear drops can have similar ingredients, they are still not interchangeable. There are several risks and potential hazards associated with using eye drops in ears:

  • Increased risk of infection: Eye drops are not formulated to be sterile like ear drops, and they may have bacteria or other microorganisms that could infect the ear. This could lead to more serious issues like middle ear or mastoid infections.
  • Irritation: Eye drops contain chemicals that are intended to be applied to the eye only. When applied to ear, they could either burn, sting or cause discomfort.
  • Tinnitus: Some eye drops contain ototoxic substances that could cause tinnitus(a condition where a person perceives ringing or other sounds in the ears) when applied to the ear.
  • Alteration of ear pH: Eye drops usually have a pH of around 7 while Ear drops have a pH ranging between 5 & 6. If eye drops are used in ears, it can easily alter the ear pH which in turn can lead to infections or irritation.
  • Ineffective Treatment: Eye and ear problems may seem similar but are in fact completely different. Even if there are some similar active ingredients, the concentration amounts are significantly different. Using eye drops for an ear problem could therefore be ineffective and might need additional medical attention.

Can some eye drops be used in ears?

In some cases, certain types of eye drops may be used in ears but only on a doctor’s recommendation. The physician will establish the condition affecting the ear and the active ingredients required for treatment. A case-in-point is of antibiotic eye drops containing a low concentration of antibiotic medications such as Gentamicin, which can sometimes be used to treat ear infections, but only when prescribed by a doctor.


In summary, eye drops should not be used as a replacement for ear drops unless done under the doctor’s recommendation. While both types of treatments contain some similar active ingredients, they are formulated for different purposes, and using one for the other could lead to serious health hazards. If you have an ear problem, it is always recommended to use ear drops or speak with a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I use eye drops for ear infections?
  • No. Eye drops should never be used for ear infections as they are not sterile and contain different ingredients.

  • Can I put ear drops in my eyes?
  • No. Ear drops are not formulated to be used in the eyes, and they may contain ingredients that could be harmful to the eyes.

  • What happens if I put eye drops in my ears?
  • Putting eye drops in your ears could lead to infections, irritation, tinnitus or alteration of ears’ pH.

  • Can I use over-the-counter ear drops for eye irritation?
  • No. Over-the-counter ear drops should never be used for treating any eye irritation, otherwise it can cause serious long-term damage.

  • Can I use my child’s ear drops for my eyes if I don’t have any eye drops?
  • No. Ear drops are formulated to be used only in the ear and not for eyes. It could be harmful and cause severe harm to your eyes


Some sources used for the article are listed below: