Chemicals Splashed in an Eye…What Do I Do?

Posted on September 17, 2017

Chemicals Splashed in an Eye…What Do I Do?
By: Jeffrey Colburn, MD

Here is a scenario where a little knowledge and quick action could make a life-long difference for your child or someone else. Chemicals that are accidentally splashed or sprayed into the eyes can burn the surface of the eye quickly with the possibility of permanent damage. Caustic cleaning solutions and other household chemicals are frequent culprits. Corroded batteries could leak battery acid that could be accidentally rubbed in an eye. The relatively new laundry detergent pods have been known to explode in the face of children and cause eye injury. People are often surprised to learn that basic solutions can actually be even more harmful to the eyes than acids as bases penetrate deeper into the eyes.

The first step is of course prevention. Keep chemicals & laundry detergent pods in a safe location away from children. If an unfortunate chemical exposure does happen, quick action can literally be vision saving. The most important thing to do is to flush the eyes with large quantities of fluid to wash out the chemical. The longer that the caustic chemical remains in contact with the eye, the greater the damage to the eye. Use eye irrigation fluid, saline solution, or even just tap water if that is what is available. Most work place environments will have an eye wash station and you should be familiar with where it is and how it works. Flush for a prolonged period with up to liters of fluid. Now with children in particular it may be difficult to flush due to poor cooperation, but make your best attempt first and then seek emergency medical help. There is no time to waste!