FDA warns that getting alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the eyes can cause serious injury
FDA is warning that getting alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the eyes can result in serious injury, including corneal abrasions. Between January 1, 2018, and April 30, 2021, there were 3,642 calls made to U.S. poison control centers regarding side effects resulting from eye exposure to hand sanitizers. The most common side effects were eye irritation/pain and red eye/conjunctivitis; however, 58 cases of a more serious injury to the surface of the eye have been reported. Eye exposure to hand sanitizer has been reported in all age groups; however, it has occurred most often in children. Such eye injuries have become much more frequent, likely due to the marked increase in the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recommendations for Patients
- The best way to prevent the spread of infections and decrease the risk of getting sick is by washing your hands frequently with plain soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Do not use alcohol-based hand sanitizers in or near your eyes. After applying alcohol-based hand sanitizer to your hands, avoid touching your eyes.
- Adults should always supervise young children, particularly those younger than 6 years old, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially around dispensers containing these hand sanitizers, which often are located at children’s eye level and can splash.
- If alcohol-based hand sanitizer accidentally splashes or gets in your eyes or those of a child, immediately and thoroughly rinse them under gently running water such as from a sink tap, water bottle, or emergency shower for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Do not delay in rinsing the eyes, as immediate rinsing is the most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of serious eye injury.
- After rinsing, if symptoms such as redness, pain, irritation, visual impairment, blurred vision, or light sensitivity persist, seek an urgent eye exam.
- Store hand sanitizers and all other over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines up and away and out of children’s reach and sight.
- Do not drink alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Drinking even a small amount can cause alcohol poisoning in children, while larger amounts may be toxic in older children and adults.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer in a well-ventilated area. When using it in an enclosed area such as a car, open a window to improve ventilation until the hand sanitizer is dry and the vapors have cleared.
- Some hand sanitizers may contain or be contaminated with harmful ingredients. Before you buy or use hand sanitizer, check FDA’s “do-not-use” list.
- Store alcohol-based hand sanitizer away from heat and flames because it contains alcohol, which is flammable. When using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, rub your hands until they feel completely dry and allow the vapors to clear before performing activities that may involve heat, sparks, static electricity, or open flames.
The complete Drug Safety Communication can be viewed on the FDA website.
Report adverse events involving this or other medicines to the MedWatch program as recommended in the Indian Health Manual and include “IHS” in the reporter section (section G).
Instructions for reporting can be found online at the NPTC Pharmacovigilance website.