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Chemical in Eye

Types of chemicals

Many substances are harmless (soap, hair spray, sunscreen) and cause no symptoms or transient tearing. Many chemicals (e.g. alcohol, hydrocarbons) will just cause temporary stinging and superficial irritation, but not last damage. Acids (e.g. toilet bowl cleaners) and alkalis (e.g. oven cleaners) splashed into the eye cause severe eye pain and can severely damage the cornea (sometimes causing blindness).
Harmless chemicals

  •     The following liquid products are harmless to the eye: bubble bath, cosmetics, deodorant, foods (e.g. lemon juice), hair conditioner, hair spray, hand lotion, laundry detergent (liquid), medications, shampoo, shaving cream, soap, sunscreen, and toothpaste.
  •     The following substances are also harmless, but will cause transient irritation: hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and vinegar. Brief irrigation of the eye is indicated for any substance that causes irritation.

First aid

  •     Immediately and thoroughly rinse the eye (irrigation) with tap water.
  •     Eye irrigation for younger children: Have the child lie down and slowly pour lukewarm tap water into the eye from a pitcher or glass. Hold the eyelid open during this process if the child can’t keep it open. Consider lying in a bathtub.
  •     Eye irrigation for older children: Immerse the entire face into a basin of warm tap water. With the face underwater, open and close the eyelids. Look from side to side. Hold the eyelid open during this process if the child can’t keep it open.
  •     Duration: For acids, irrigate the eye continuously for 10 minutes. For alkalis, irrigate the eye continuously for 20 minutes.
  •     For other substances, irrigate the eye continuously for 5 minutes.
  •     If one eye is not burned, cover it (if possible) while irrigating the other.
  •     For any chemical particles that can’t be flushed away, wipe them away with a moistened cotton swab.
  •     Never irrigate with antidotes such as vinegar. (Reason: the chemical reaction can cause more damage).
  •     Parents should go to the emergency department (ED) immediately if they are unable to carry out the irrigation at home.

Call Poison Center

Parents should call the poison center immediately after irrigation is completed (exception: harmless chemical). The National Poison Center hotline number is 800-222-1222. This number will automatically connect the caller with their local poison center.
Home care advice for chemical in eye

    Vasoconstrictor eye drops (available over the counter)

  •         Use 1-2 drops every 6-8 hours as necessary for a day.
  •         Pain and discomfort usually passes 1-2 hours after irrigation.
  •         Call pediatrician if:
  •             Eye pain, blurred vision or tearing lasts >1 hour after irrigation
  •             Redness lasts >24 hours.
  •             Your child becomes worse.


Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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