At the Maryland Poison Center (MPC), we talk a lot about poisons that are swallowed. But, did you know we manage other types of poison exposures, too? Let’s look at other ways a person can be exposed to a poison, such as eye exposures. Eye exposures are usually unintentional. The MPC manages more than 1,400 such exposures each year. Below, we review what to do if an eye exposure happens, as well as some common products we receive calls about at the MPC.
First Aid for Eye Exposures
If you or someone you know gets a product in their eye, follow these first aid steps:
- Flush the eye with warm (not hot) water. You can use a large glass two to three inches above the eye, a faucet, or the shower.
- Rinse for 15 minutes.
- Blink as much as possible, but do not force the eyelid open.
- Call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222.
Common Products Linked to Eye Exposures
Household Cleaning Products
While cleaning, be careful not to splash or spray cleaning products into your eye. When using a spray, face the sprayer away from the face. Keep a safe distance between your face and cleaners when diluting or moving them, as this can sometimes cause a product to splash up into your eye.
In general, cleaning products can cause eye redness and pain, but can usually be managed by the recommended 15 minutes of rinsing. Common products we receive calls about include:
- Laundry packets
- All-purpose cleaners
- Carpet cleaners
- Liquid laundry detergents or pre-wash
There are some cleaning products that are more harmful if they get in the eye. These can cause a burn or scratch on the eye that may need to be treated by a health care provider. Those products include:
- Toilet bowl cleaners
- Oven cleaners
- Soap scum removers
- Drain openers
Cosmetics and Personal Care Products
Be careful when using cosmetics and personal care products. They can get sprayed or splashed into the eye. Often, the exposure happens when you get the product on your hands and then touch your eye. Some products, such as nail glue, are in bottles that are shaped just like eye drops, allowing them to be easily mistaken for each other.
These products usually cause eye redness and pain, but can often be treated with the recommended 15 minutes of rinsing. Common products we receive calls about include:
- Hand sanitizers
- Creams, lotions, and makeup
- Hair coloring products
Sunscreen may require more than 15 minutes of rinsing because the product is often water repellant. Call the poison center after rinsing for at least 15 minutes for further instructions.
Nail glue and super glue can cause the eye to be glued shut. Do not force the eye open if this happens. Call the poison center right away and follow the directions given by the poison specialist.
Hair relaxers can also be more harmful, potentially causing a burn or scratch on the eye. If you get this product in your eye, rinse the eye for 15 minutes then call the poison center for further instructions.
When working in the yard or garden, always take the extra precaution to wear protective eyewear, such as safety glasses or goggles. Pesticides can easily be sprayed in the eye, splashed in the eye, or rubbed into the eye by your hands.
Pesticides include garden products and insect repellants. When they get in the eye, they cause redness and pain. But, this can often be managed at home by rinsing the eye for 15 minutes.
Products in the Garage
In general, products typically found in the garage can be irritating if they get in the eye. These types of products include:
- Motor oil
Automotive and Boat Products
- Transmission and power steering fluids
- Windshield washing solution
Rinsing the eye for 15 minutes after an exposure often helps. Freon can cause more a harmful reaction, so be sure to call the poison center right after rinsing if exposed to this product.
Other products that we hear about at the MPC include:
- Air fresheners
- Glow stick liquid
- Bubble blowing solution
- Essential Oils
- Rubbing alcohol
- Swimming pool and aquarium products
Pepper spray and hot peppers can require more than 15 minutes of rinsing. Call the poison center after rinsing for further instructions.
If you suspect that you or someone else has experienced an eye exposed to any product, call the poison center after performing the above first aid steps. Even if you don’t expect more than minor irritation, it’s best to check with the experts to see if any further treatment is needed. We are open 24/7/365. The call is free and confidential. You can always reach a specially trained pharmacist or nurse by calling 1-800-222-1222.
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