Young children are at greater risk of eye damage from chemical burns than working-age adults, according to a new study. Household cleansers are most often to blame for eye injuries in 1- and 2-year-old children.
The researchers had assumed that young working adults were at greatest risk of chemical burns to the eye. This belief was commonly held in the eye care community because of the dangers posed to adults’ eyes by work. The new study found 1-year-olds are twice as likely to suffer eye burns as 24-year-olds. Young toddlers are 13 times more likely than 7-year-olds to suffer chemical burns to the eye.
The researchers analyzed four years of data from more than 900 emergency rooms around the United States. There were more than 144,000 emergency room visits related to chemical eye burns nationwide between 2010 and 2013, the study found. The injuries most often occurred at home.
Chemicals are especially dangerous to the eyes because they continue to burn into the eye after contact. They can cause permanent damage to the internal structures of the eye.
"These are terrible injuries; they occur most frequently in the smallest of children and they are entirely preventable," said study leader R. Sterling Haring, DO, MPH, of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was quoted in a news release. "These children do not deal with chemicals on the job. They are injured largely because they get into chemicals such as household cleaners that are improperly stored."
To prevent chemical eye burns in young children, parents should keep household cleaners and other chemicals out of reach, Dr. Haring said. Use a lock for the cleaning supplies closet, or keep cleansers on a high shelf. "These injuries can occur in an instant," he said. "Making household chemicals and cleaners inaccessible to young children is the best way to put an end to this."
Spray bottles are a particular concern when it comes to chemical eye burns, Time reports. Young children find them intriguing and easy to operate.
If a child or adult gets chemicals in their eye, flush with plenty of water. An ophthalmologist should examine the eye as soon as possible.
While you are seeking medical help for any type of eye injury, the American Academy of Ophthalmology advises these first-aid tips:
- DO NOT touch, rub or apply pressure to the eye.
- DO NOT try to remove any object stuck in the eye. For small debris, lift the eye lid and ask the child to blink rapidly to see if tears will flush out the particle. If not, close the eye and seek treatment.
- Do not apply ointment or medication to the eye.
- A cut or puncture wound should be gently covered.
The Academy also offers safety tips for preventing eye injuries at home.