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Blocked Tear Duct: How to Care for Your Child

Some babies are born with a blocked tear duct. This makes the eye tear more than normal, and sometimes mucus drains from the eye. A blocked tear duct usually opens up on its own by the time a baby is about 6 months old.

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  • Massage your baby's blocked tear duct 2–3 times a day:

    1. Wash your hands with soap and water and dry with a clean towel. Be sure your nails are trimmed short.

    2. Place your index finger where the tears come out and massage downward for 2–3 seconds. Do this 10 times.

  • Use a clean washcloth dampened with warm (not hot) water to remove any dried mucus around the eye.

  • If your health care provider prescribed antibiotics, use as directed.

  • Follow up with your health care provider as instructed.

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  • Your baby's eye is red, swollen, or draining pus.

  • Light seems to bother your baby.

  • The tearing and drainage get better, then come back again.

  • A bump develops around the eye.

  • Your baby still has a blocked tear duct at 6–8 months of age.

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What causes a blocked tear duct? Tears normally drain into the tear ducts through small openings in the inner corners of the eyelids. Sometimes babies are born with a duct that is too narrow or has a thin membrane blocking it. In older kids, the causes of a blocked tear duct are different.

Can a blocked tear duct lead to other problems? Sometimes germs grow in the blocked duct and an infection happens. Signs of an infected tear duct are yellow or green mucus draining from the eye, and redness and swelling of the eye. Health care providers prescribe antibiotics to treat tear duct infections.

What if my child's tear duct doesn't open up on its own? Most blocked tear ducts open by the time a child is around 6 months old. If your baby still has a blocked tear duct after 6–8 months or it gets infected often, your health care provider will send you to an ophthalmologist (eye doctor). The ophthalmologist can do surgery to clear the blockage.

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