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How to heal a clogged tear duct in infants

Updated on June 18, 2013

Clogged tear ducts in infants

According to most authorities, a clogged tear duct in infants is fairly common due to the fact that the tear ducts are very small and susceptible to becoming clogged and sometimes infected. Once an infection occurs the tear duct becomes swollen which further complicates this condition that often causes itchy eyes and a gooey green substance to build up on the eye lashes and in the eye itself.

If you suspect your infant has a clogged tear duct, it is important to visit her pediatrician to confirm this before proceeding. They can also prescribe antibiotics if the eye appears to be infected. But as with all things infant related, it is best to first follow the advice of the doctor and ask them if the solutions listed below are appropriate for their specific problem.

Clean and hot compress

When your infant wakes up and you see the gooey green substance stuck to the eyelashes and built up on the inner corner of the eye, the first thing you think to do is clean it off. A good way to do this is by first getting some warm water on a clean cloth and placing it over the eye to loosen the mucus like substance. This will not only make cleaning the eye easier, but will also increase blood flow and may help the clogged duct open up.

After allowing the warm compress to moisten and warm up the area, clean the eyelashes and eye out with a dry cloth. Be sure not to reuse cloths over and over as the cloth can harbor bacteria that will enter into the infants body through the eye. Wipe the inner corner of the eye using tiny circular movements and then removing any goo by wiping towards the bridge of the nose. To get the eyelashes clean, pin the eye lashes against the skin above or below the eye and wipe away from the eye to remove the goo. Be gentle when doing this and don't apply more pressure to get the goo to come off. If you are having a hard time, use the warm moist compress again to loosen the goo before wiping again.

Massage for clogged duct

Using circular movements start above the eye at the location of the tear gland which is labeled 'a' in the diagram to the right. Make clockwise movements with the tip of your finger moving just above the eye. Do this very gently! Do not push in but rather massage as if you are just trying to move the thin layer of skin covering this area.

Next move your finger to the inner corner of the eye. You see a small red ball in the inner corner and you should put your finger just to the side of this red ball. Again make tiny clockwise massage movements for 30 seconds or so. If your little one is getting irritated, you might try doing this while feeding.

Next move the the area just medial of this or in this case it would be closer to the bridge of the nose. Again make little clockwise movements. Using light pressure is going to have a better effect as if you are compressing the area too much you won't be promoting the unclogging of this tiny duct. You will simply be compressing an already clogged up duct. Visualize the movement of fluid from the tear gland to the inner corner of the eye and then through the tiny tear duct tubes into the nose.

Prescription for antibiotics from your doctor

If the doctor has diagnosed the clogged tear duct and thinks an infection is present, they will likely prescribe an antibiotic eye drop. This is helpful as if the eye is infected then it will cause swelling in the lining of the tiny tear duct which closes it off and causes the infection to move into the eye. This is also what causes the build up of that mucus like goo in the eye..

Breast milk in the eye

If you don't want to use antibiotics, some people suggest that a little breast milk in the eye might help. The thinking is that the natural antibodies in breast milk will help to fight the infection in the eye. The only downside is that your infant might not like this and it could cause them to itch their eye. It might also cause the eye to get sticky and be difficult to get into the eye in the first place. To do this you could simply use a freshly sterilized baby bottle and before or while feeding expressed milk from a bottle, simply give a squirt into the eye. Aim for the inner corner as the milk will accumulate there if the baby closes their eye and when they blink it will naturally get into their eye on its own.

Healing with time

Most doctors will tell you that the clogged duct will heal with time. The main thing to do is keep the eye clean and free of infection. Most ducts will be free flowing by one year of age, but if that is too long to wait I recommend trying the massage and warm compress techniques daily. This will promote the duct to open up naturally and will help your little ones eye feel better.

Just make sure that if you see signs of infection like swelling around the eye or redness around or in the eye that you visit your pediatrician promptly. These are signs of infection and you definitely want to have a doctor to evaluate the problem and prescribe a medication if necessary.


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