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Reporting a Medication Error

Ear Wax Removal Drops Looks Like Eye Drops

Published January 25, 2019 (reviewed April 4,2024)

Figure 1. Ear wax removal drops come in a bottle that looks like it may contain eye drops. A warning to use the medicine only in the ear is not on the front label.

A woman accidentally put ear wax removal drops (carbamide peroxide 6.5%) into her eye. This caused irritation and redness that persisted after rinsing her eye with water for 15 minutes. The bottle of ear wax removal drops (Figure 1) looks like a container used for eye drops. A warning that the drops are for the ears only is not on the front of the bottle (and carton) label. On the back of the carton, it says, “When using this product, do not get into eyes” in the Drug Facts table, but it does not stand out. This is mentioned on the side of the bottle, but the warning is buried in the middle of a paragraph in very small print.

This is not the first time we have received reports of mix-ups between medicines that come in dropper bottles. For example, consumers have accidentally instilled clotrimazole (Lotrimin) topical solution (used to treat athlete’s foot), and even super glue, into the eye. Any product packaged in bottles (or tubes) that look like eye drops (or ointments) might pose a problem, particularly if the products are left where eye medicines are stored.

Here’s what you can do: If you use eye drops or ear drops, store them separately and in a location away from other products that are in similarly shaped dropper bottles. Never put any medicine into the eye in the dark. Always read the label of a medicine before use.

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