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Cyclopentolate eye drops for refraction

Why does my child need eye drops?

Eye drops are required to enlarge your child’s pupil (the black part of the eye) so the optometrist (ophthalmic optician) or doctor (ophthalmologist) can see through the pupil and examine the back of the eye and to determine if glasses are needed.

What effects do the eye drops have?

Blurred vision

The dilating drops affect your child’s ability to focus. This causes blurred vision for around 4 to 5 hours. Any activity needing hand eye co-ordination will be difficult such as writing, colouring, eating and so on.

Playing on climbing frames, cycling, skating should be avoided. Your child may temporarily lose the ability to judge depth, making steps, stairs and kerbs hard to judge. This means they will need close supervision until their vision returns to normal.

Sensitivity to light

The dilating drops also prevent the pupil from controlling the amount of light entering the eye. This will cause your child to be sensitive to light. Wearing sunglasses or a peaked cap may help the discomfort but there will be no damage to the eye if your child refuses to wear sunglasses or a cap.

The effect lasts as long as your child’s pupil is large which may be around 24 hours. This does not affect their vision but they will find bright lights uncomfortable until their pupil size returns to normal.


If your child’s eyes become red or sore, they may have had an allergic reaction to the eye drops. Please inform the nurse on arrival to the clinic if you think your child is having an allergic reaction.

How can I help prepare my child for having eye drops?

It is vitally important that you have a positive approach in preparing your child for eye drops. If you are negative in any way, you can affect your child’s co-operation.

For eye drops to be given, your child only has to sit still for a few seconds looking up or lie down with their eyes closed.

Where should I store the cyclopentolate?

Cyclopentolate should be stored below 25 degrees Celsius and away from strong light.

Keep all medicines out of the reach of children.

⚠ Do not let it freeze or use the drops after the expiry date.

How do I give my child the eye drops?

There are 2 methods you can use:

Closed eye method

The closed eye method is the recommended technique by the Sheffield Paediatric ophthalmic team to minimise distress and maximise cooperation for further testing.

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly, peel the over-wrap apart and take out the drops
  2. Twist off the cap
  3. Tilt your child’s head back or lay them flat on their back, with their eyes closed
  4. Avoid touching the dropper against your child’s eyelids or eyelashes
  5. Gently squeeze until a drop of liquid falls onto the corner of the closed eye nearest the nose
  6. Do not ask the child to open their eyes
  7. Ask your child to keep their eyes closed until the eyelashes are wet, then dab off the excess liquid with a tissue, but do not completely dry the lashes
  8. Your child can then open their eyes and blink 3 times you may then dry their lashes completely
  9. Repeat with the other eye
  10. Always wash your hands and your child’s hands after using the drops to avoid it being accidentally taken internally
  11. Throw away the rest of the drops when you have finished, even if there is some solution left

Open eye method

The open eye method is suitable for very cooperative or older children.

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly, peel the over-wrap apart and take out the drops
  2. Twist off the cap
  3. Tilt your child’s head back or lay them flat on their back. You may need someone else to help them keep still and in a safe and comfortable position, maybe with a blanket.
  4. Gently pull down the lower eyelid of one of the eyes with your finger, ask your child to look upwards

Illustration of person using eye drops

  1. Avoid touching the dropper against your child’s eye, eyelashes or any other surface
  2. Gently squeeze until a drop of liquid falls into the gap between the eyeball and lower eyelid
  3. You can also gently press on the inner corner of the eye for 30 seconds, this will help to stop the eye drop solution draining away into the nose and throat.Illustration of person with their finger pressed on their inner closed eye Illustration of person using tissue to dab inner closed eye
  1. Repeat with the other eye
  2. Always wash your hands and your child’s hands after using the drops to avoid it being taken internally
  3. Throw away the rest of the drops when you have finished, even if there is some solution left

How long do the drops take to work?

It takes cyclopentolate eye drops around about 30 to 40 minutes to work and for the full effect to be achieved. So please instil the eye drops into your child’s eyes at least 30 to 40 minutes before your appointment time.

The eye drops usually wear off in 6 to 8 hours but we would advise you allow 24 hours for the full effect of the eye drops to wear off.

What if I cannot put the eye drops in?

Your appointment has been allocated in a session where the clinician will expect your child’s eyes to have already been dilated for the appointment time. If your child’s eyes are not dilated for the appointment time, we will try to rearrange a time on the same day however this is not always possible. It may result in cancelling and rearranging your appointment for a different day.

If you are concerned about instilling eye drops into your child’s eyes, please contact the department before the day of your appointment on 0114 271 7468.

Should my child return to school after the eye test?

If your child’s teacher is happy to provide the necessary supervision to make sure they are safe, then they can return to school or attend nursery after having eye drops. However, they should not take part in PE and games lessons until the blurred vision has worn off completely.

Can my child go to sports classes after?

Again, this would depend on individual teachers accepting responsibility for your child while their vision is still blurred.

Can my child go swimming later?

Because of the dangers of water, it would probably be wise not to go swimming unless you are totally happy about the level of supervision provided.

Can my child go to a party later?

This would depend on the type of party and the level of adult supervision. It is recommended that children do not use climbing frames until their vision returns to normal.

A final decision regarding activities after having eye drops in is probably best made just before the time of the event weighing up all the risks of the possibility of your child hurting themselves.

Contact us

If you have any worries or concerns please contact the Orthoptic Department on 0114 271 7468 or seek medical advice. If your child becomes unwell please contact your family doctor or emergency services.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: EYE11

Resource Type: Article

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