Eye - Chemical In

Is this your symptom?

  • Chemical gets into the eye from fingers, an object, spray or splash
  • For strong chemicals, quickly flushing the eye with tap water is critical. Reason: to prevent any damage to vision.

Symptoms

  • Most chemicals are harmless (soap, hair spray, sunscreen). They cause no symptoms or brief tearing.
  • Some chemicals cause brief stinging and irritation (pink or red eye), but no eye damage.
  • Acids and alkalis splashed into the eye cause severe eye pain. Examples are toilet bowl or oven cleaners. They can severely damage the eye and sometimes even cause blindness.

Harmless Chemicals

  • The following products are harmless to the eye: bubble bath, cosmetics, deodorant, and foods. Other examples are glow stick liquid, hair conditioner, hair spray, hand lotion, liquid medicines. Shampoo, shaving cream, soap, sunscreen, and toothpaste are also harmless.
  • Hydrogen peroxide, ethyl alcohol, gasoline, swimming pool water and vinegar are also harmless. But, these products can cause eye redness and stinging.
  • Eye contact with rubbing alcohol (isopropyl or hand sanitizer) is most often harmless, But it can cause a burn on the cornea. If symptoms occur, they will often go away with brief washing out of the eye now. If symptoms remain, go to the ER.

Harmful Chemicals: You Need to Prevent Chemical Burns of The Cornea

  • Eye contact with acids or alkalis can cause severe damage to the eye. For these products, wash out the eye with water for 20 minutes now. Then, go to the ER. Knowing which it is doesn’t matter for First Aid.
  • Acids. Acids include any product labeled as an acid. Drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and metal cleaners should be assumed to be acids.
  • Alkalis. Alkalis include lime, lye, hydroxides and industrial-strength ammonia. Drain cleaners, oven cleaners, bathroom cleaners, or industrial cleaners should be assumed to be alkalis.
  • Weak Alkalis. Household bleach, household ammonia and the contents of laundry or dish detergent pods (gel pacs) are weak alkalis. These products usually don't cause eye damage if the eye is promptly washed out. For these chemicals, wash out the eye for 10 minutes. Then call the Poison Center. They will tell you if the product is harmful. They can also tell you if you need to be seen.

When to Call for Eye - Chemical In

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Tearing or blinking lasts more than 1 hour after washing the eye
  • Blurred vision lasts more than 1 hour after washing the eye
  • Eye pain lasts more than 1 hour after washing the eye
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Redness of the eye lasts more than 24 hours
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Harmless chemical (see the List in Causes section) and mild or no eye symptoms

Care Advice for Harmless Chemical in the Eye

  1. What You Should Know:
    • This advice only applies to harmless chemicals (see Harmless List in Causes section)
    • Most harmless chemicals cause no symptoms. Some cause brief stinging and redness of the eye.
    • They do not cause any damage to the cornea or vision.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Wash Out the Eye with Warm Tap Water Now
    • Rapid washing out of the eye with warm tap water can be done at home. Start now.
    • First, take out any contact lens.
    • Washing Out the Eye, Method 1. Put your entire face into a basin of warm tap water. With your face underwater, open and close the eyelids. Look from side to side. Change the water several times.
    • How Long? For harmless chemicals, wash out the eye for at least 2 minutes. Caution: harmful substances need flushing with water for up to 20 minutes. See First Aid for those.
  3. Washing Out the Eye, Method 2.
    • Slowly pour lukewarm water into your eye from a pitcher or glass.
    • Or, put your head under a gently running faucet or shower.
    • Keep your eye open while you do this.
  4. Artificial Tears (Eyedrops):
    • If eye discomfort remains after washing out the eye is done, you can use artificial tears. No prescription is needed.
    • Dosage: 1 drop, 3 times per day as needed
    • Caution: avoid vasoconstrictor eyedrops (like Visine and Opcon-A). Reason: they hide redness. Redness that lasts more than 24 hours needs to be seen.
  5. Contact Lenses:
    • Throw away your contact lenses if you were wearing them at the time of the chemical exposure.
    • Switch to wearing glasses until your eye symptoms are gone (even just redness).
  6. What to Expect:
    • Your eyes will feel much better after the irritant has been washed out.
    • The pain and discomfort most often gone 1 to 2 hours after washed out.
    • The redness lasts longer.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Eye pain, blurred vision or tearing lasts more than 1 hour after eyes have been washed out.
    • Redness lasts more than 24 hours
    • You think you need to be seen
    • Your symptoms get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.


Last Reviewed: 10/11/2023 1:00:45 AM
Last Updated: 4/13/2023 1:00:38 AM

Copyright 2023 Schmitt Decision Logic LLC.

<strong>First Aid - Chemical in Eye (Glass of Water)</strong> <ul><li>Slowly pour lukewarm water into the eye from a pitcher or glass. </li></ul><p><strong>Duration of Irrigation:</strong> </p><ul><li>For <strong>harmless substances</strong> (e.g., sunscreen or hair spray), irrigation only needs to be carried out for 2-3 minutes.</li><li>For <strong>stronger chemicals</strong> that cause more irritation and stinging (e.g., ammonia, vinegar, alcohol or household bleach), flush the eye for 5-10 minutes.</li><li>For <strong>acids</strong>, irrigate the eye continuously for 10 minutes.</li><li>For <strong>alkalis</strong>, irrigate the eye continuously for 20 minutes.</li><li>For any <strong>chemical particles</strong> that can't be flushed away, wipe them away with a moistened cotton swab. </li></ul><p><strong>Special Notes:</strong></p><ul><li><em>Begin irrigation immediately! </em></li><li>Never irrigate with antidotes such as vinegar (Reason: the chemical reaction can cause more damage) .</li></ul>
First Aid - Chemical in Eye (Glass of Water)
  • Slowly pour lukewarm water into the eye from a pitcher or glass.

Duration of Irrigation:

  • For harmless substances (e.g., sunscreen or hair spray), irrigation only needs to be carried out for 2-3 minutes.
  • For stronger chemicals that cause more irritation and stinging (e.g., ammonia, vinegar, alcohol or household bleach), flush the eye for 5-10 minutes.
  • For acids, irrigate the eye continuously for 10 minutes.
  • For alkalis, irrigate the eye continuously for 20 minutes.
  • For any chemical particles that can't be flushed away, wipe them away with a moistened cotton swab.

Special Notes:

  • Begin irrigation immediately!
  • Never irrigate with antidotes such as vinegar (Reason: the chemical reaction can cause more damage) .
<strong>First Aid - Chemical in Eye (Faucet or Shower)</strong> <ul><li>Place the face under a gently running faucet or a shower. Hold the eyelids open during this process.</li></ul><p><strong>Duration of Irrigation:</strong></p><ul><li>For <strong>harmless substances</strong> (e.g., sunscreen or hair spray), irrigation only needs to be carried out for 2-3 minutes.</li><li>For <strong>stronger chemicals</strong> that cause more irritation and stinging (e.g., ammonia, vinegar, alcohol or household bleach), flush the eye for 5-10 minutes.</li><li>For <strong>acids</strong>, irrigate the eye continuously for 10 minutes.</li><li>For <strong>alkalis</strong>, irrigate the eye continuously for 20 minutes.</li><li>For any <strong>chemical particles</strong> that can't be flushed away, wipe them away with a moistened cotton swab.</li></ul><p><strong>Special Notes:</strong></p><ul><li><em>Begin irrigation immediately.</em></li><li>Never irrigate with antidotes such as vinegar (Reason: the chemical reaction can cause more damage) .</li><li>After you wash your eye, then call the Poison Center. The U.S. national 800 phone number is 1-800-222-1222.</li></ul>
First Aid - Chemical in Eye (Faucet or Shower)
  • Place the face under a gently running faucet or a shower. Hold the eyelids open during this process.

Duration of Irrigation:

  • For harmless substances (e.g., sunscreen or hair spray), irrigation only needs to be carried out for 2-3 minutes.
  • For stronger chemicals that cause more irritation and stinging (e.g., ammonia, vinegar, alcohol or household bleach), flush the eye for 5-10 minutes.
  • For acids, irrigate the eye continuously for 10 minutes.
  • For alkalis, irrigate the eye continuously for 20 minutes.
  • For any chemical particles that can't be flushed away, wipe them away with a moistened cotton swab.

Special Notes:

  • Begin irrigation immediately.
  • Never irrigate with antidotes such as vinegar (Reason: the chemical reaction can cause more damage) .
  • After you wash your eye, then call the Poison Center. The U.S. national 800 phone number is 1-800-222-1222.

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