Chemical splash in the eye

At some point in your life, you might have encountered the entry of certain chemicals in the eye. A chemical splash in the eye can occur by accident at home when using household chemicals or when the workplace involves handling of different harmful chemicals.

Different types of chemicals

Harmless substances

There are some chemicals that will not cause harm once they enter the eye. Most of these are readily found at home and you might be even using them.

  • Deodorant
  • Cosmetics
  • Hair conditioner and shampoo
  • Laundry detergent
  • Soap
  • Sunscreen
  • Shaving cream

There are also chemicals that are harmless but can cause temporary irritation. These include hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and rubbing alcohol.

Harmful chemicals to the eye

Once the eye comes in contact with alkalis or acids, it can cause severe damage to the eye. All need immediate irrigation and the individual must be taken to the emergency department right away.

Acids include nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid, sulfuric acid, oxalic acid as well as other products that are labelled as an acid.

First aid for a chemical splash in the eye

chemical splash in the eye

The affected eye must be flushed with running water.

Once a chemical splash in the eye occurs, there are first aid measures that you have to perform right away in order to prevent further irritation and damage.

Flush the eye with water

Use clean, lukewarm water for at least 20 minutes and perform any of the following:

  • Instruct the individual to go to the shower and aim a gentle stream of water on the forehead over the affected eye. You can even direct the water stream on the nose bridge if both eyes are affected. Instruct the individual to hold the affected eye open.
  • Position the head down and turn it to the side. The affected eye must be open while under running water.
  • For children, it is best that he/she will lie down in the bathtub or lean back on the sink while pouring a gentle stream of water on the forehead over the affected eye or on the bridge of the nose for both eyes.

Wash the hands with water and soap

The hands must be thoroughly rinsed to ensure that there is no chemical or soap left. The objective is to remove the chemicals from the surface of the eye, but also from your hands to prevent the spread of the chemical to other body parts or to others.

If contact lenses are used, remove them

Contact lenses that do not come out when flushing must be taken out. Instruct the individual to avoid rubbing the eye since it can cause further damage and do not put anything except water or contact lens saline rinse.

When to seek emergency assistance

After the following steps have been performed, it is important to seek emergency care. If needed, call for emergency assistance. Bring the chemical or inform the health care professionals the name of the chemical once you arrive at the emergency department. If available, the individual must wear sunglasses since the eyes are sensitive to light.