Hand sanitizer in the eyes

Hand sanitizer gets in the eyes when one accidentally sprays the liquid into their eyes or rubs their eyes before the sanitizer fully evaporates. A recent study from France found that children may suffer more eye injuries due to the frequent use of hand sanitizer during the pandemic. The Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology found that pediatric eye exposure to hand sanitizer was seven times higher in 2020 than it was in 2019.

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Can hand sanitizer harm your eyes?

An excessive amount of hand sanitizer that contains a high concentration of alcohol can cause corneal abrasions or keratitis if left in the eye for a prolonged period of time.There is usually a limited amount of liquid hand sanitizer that can squirt into the eye. The good news is that complications are rare and the injury is not as severe as other chemical injuries. The likelihood of complications from getting hand sanitizer in your eyes decreases significantly when you take immediate steps to flush your eyes. 

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What to do if hand sanitizer gets in your eyes?

If you get hand sanitizer in your eye, it’s important to avoid rubbing it and to flush your eye as soon as possible. You should flush your eyes for at least 20 minutes with clean, room temperature tap water after a chemical splash.

You can use your shower or a sink to flush your eye. You can also use an emergency eyewash station if you have access to one. Regardless of which method you choose, make sure the water isn't too hot to avoid further damage to your eyes.

When using a sink, lean over the basin and adjust the tap to a gentle flow. Allow the water to flow into your eye while tilting your head to the side.

Any burning or stinging sensations in your eyes, or any changes in vision or loss of vision is considered an eye emergency. If after flushing your eyes you still have strong burning or vision loss, you should visit your eye doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms.

What are the possible symptoms you may experience if you get hand sanitizer in your eyes?

What are the possible symptoms you may experience if you get hand sanitizer in your eyes?

A hand sanitizer usually contains alcohol to kill bacteria and germs that might make you sick. 

Chemical burns can be caused by alcohol on the cornea, which is the outermost layer of your eyes. Your cornea is a transparent layer that protects your eye and directs light toward your retina.

In the event that you get hand sanitizer in your eye, these symptoms may occur:

  • Redness
  • Stinging or burning pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Tearing
  • Trouble keeping your eye open
  • Swelling
When should you see a doctor if you got sanitizer in your eyes?

When should you see a doctor if you got sanitizer in your eyes?

After flushing your eye with water, the pain and irritation should go away within a couple of hours. However, if you’re experiencing persistent sharp pain, got a large amount of hand sanitizer in your eye, or your symptoms don’t get better within a couple of hours, it’s a good idea to see an eye care professional or get emergency medical attention.

A doctor may irrigate your eyes again even if you’ve already done it. They can also perform a pH strip test to ensure that all alcohol has been removed, as well as an eye exam to monitor the damage.

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Common Questions

Hand sanitizer contains alcohol and other chemicals that can be irritating to the eyes, but it's highly unlikely to cause blindness when accidentally splashed or rubbed into the eyes. However, it can cause a significant amount of discomfort, redness, and a burning sensation. In some cases, if the eyes aren't flushed immediately, there may be temporary vision disturbances. If someone experiences prolonged pain or any vision changes after getting hand sanitizer in their eyes, it's essential to see an eye doctor.
Hand sanitizer in the eye can cause significant irritation and a red appearance, mimicking some symptoms of pink eye (conjunctivitis). However, the redness and irritation from hand sanitizer are generally due to its chemical irritation and not an infection, as with many cases of pink eye. That being said, the symptoms can feel similar, so if there's any uncertainty, consulting an optometrist can provide clarity and ensure proper treatment.
If hand sanitizer gets into your eye while wearing contacts, it's essential to act quickly to minimize irritation. First, wash your hands thoroughly. Then, remove the contact lens from the affected eye, ensuring not to cause further irritation. Immediately flush the eye with plenty of lukewarm water or sterile saline solution for several minutes. After flushing, if there's still discomfort or any vision disturbances, it's advisable to see an eye doctor. Additionally, the contact lens should be cleaned thoroughly before re-inserting or, to be on the safer side, discarded to prevent potential contamination.
Hand sanitizer in the eyes
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Some simple precautions you can take to protect your eyes - Place hand sanitizer dispensers out of reach of children, If you intend to touch your face, be sure to rub the liquid sanitizer well into your hands, You can minimize the force of sanitizer by using foam sanitizer and make sure that the nozzle of the bottle is clear.

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