Hand sanitizer may stop germs, but if it gets in the eyes, as it often does with young children, it is not only painful, it requires immediate action.

It is probably not unsurprising that the journal of JAMA Ophthalmology published data from the French Poison Control Center that found a seven-fold increase in reports of children getting hand sanitizer in their eyes. In 2019, it accounted for 1.3 percent of all chemical eye exposure incidents. However, at the end of 2020, the number was 9.9 percent, according to Live Science.

It’s not just children. It isn’t difficult to get sanitizer in the eye. Even a few minutes after sanitizing, if you move your hand to the eyes, you will feel a chemical reaction.

Hand sanitizer contains a form of ethanol, which can kill cells in the cornea. Two children in France required transplants of their cornea in order to heal.

For children, it may be best to emphasize hand washing and keep them away from displays of hand sanitizers or public-use sanitizers.

Anyone who gets sanitizer in the eye will experience burning, stinging, redness, eye pain, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and vision loss.

  • Resist the urge to rub the eye.
  • At workplace, people should immediately go to an eye wash station and rinse eyes with warm water for at least 10 minutes.
  • At home, place your entire head in a sink under a gentle stream of warm water for  10 minutes so that water continuously runs into the eye and drains out. Keep your unaffected eye closed so it won’t be contaminated by runoff.
  • If burning and stinking continues, or if vision changes, they should contact an eye doctor immediately.


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