How far do you have to go to find hand sanitizer right now? You’ve probably seen a dispenser set up at the grocery store, the gas station, your school or workplace. Sanitizer at every corner is no surprise; keeping hands clean is an important and effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Can hand sanitizer harm your eyes?
Frequent use of hand sanitizer during the pandemic may be causing more eye injuries among children, according to a new study from France. This is from accidentally spraying the liquid into the eye or rubbing the eyes before the sanitizer is fully evaporated.
“Eye irritation from hand sanitizer is a known concern, not just for children, but for adults and health care workers, too,” said ophthalmologist Sonal Tuli, MD, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Usually only a small amount of liquid hand sanitizer will squirt into the eye. This is not as serious as other chemical injuries and the good news is complications are rare.
If a large amount of hand sanitizer with a high concentration of alcohol gets into the eye, complications include keratitis, an open sore on the eye, or corneal abrasions, a scratch on the surface of the eye.
If you notice persistent irritation after hand sanitizer splashes into your eye, it’s important to contact your ophthalmologist right away.
What to do if hand sanitizer gets in your eye
If you get a little bit of hand sanitizer in your eye, you will reflectively blink and create tears. This is your eye’s natural way of protecting itself from outside particles. “This will be similar to a shampoo in the eye irritation,” said Dr. Tuli.
If any amount of sanitizer does come into contact with the eye, wash thoroughly with water or sterile saline right away. If symptoms persist, contact your ophthalmologist.
How to avoid hand sanitizer eye injuries
There are some simple adjustments you can make to keep your eyes safe:
- Avoid putting hand sanitizer dispensers at children’s eye height
- Make sure to rub the liquid sanitizer into hands well before touching your face
- Use foam sanitizer to minimize the force at which sanitizer is dispensed
- Keep the nozzle of the bottle clear. Hardened solution can block parts of the nozzle and cause a forceful, upward squirt