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First aid : Chemical splash in the Eye

Chemical splash in the eye is dangerous(first-aid)
First Aid is important in case of chemical splash in the eye.

Chemical splash in the eye often happens, while using hair dyes, shampoos, conditioners, and other hair or skin lotions. Sometimes you use certain cleaners with acids to bleach the bathroom, and they, too, can accidentally enter the eye. Spraying pesticides, perfumes, or air fresheners, gets into your eye, resulting in a chemical splash.

Chemical exposure to the eye may cause conditions from minor discomfort to permanent damage, such as blindness or disfiguration, partial loss of vision, cataracts, glaucoma, etc.

Type of Burns Types of burns due to chemical splash in the eye

  1. Alkali burns (ammonia, lye, potassium hydroxide, magnesium, and lime) are the most dangerous chemical splashes. These chemicals are found in
    • Fertilizers
    • Cleaning products
    • Drain cleaners
    • Over cleaners
    • Plaster
    • Cement
  1. Acid burns (sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, acetic acid, chromic acid, and hydrofluoric acid) – are less severe than alkali burns. These chemicals are found in
    • Glass polish
    • Vinegar
    • Nail polish remover
    • Automobile battery
  1. Irritants (detergents, pepper spray, tear gas) – least damaging but irritate more than the above two
Determination of severity

How can the severity of the burn be determined by :

  • The type of chemical that has been splashed
  • The concentration levels
  • How long before it is noticed/ treated
  • If the affected person has previous health or eye condition
  • To the extent of injury caused by the chemical burn (if the penetration was deeper)
Symptoms of burns during chemical splash in the eye
  • The affected person will feel pain, irritation, and redness
  • The eyes will start tearing up, and the person will not be able to keep the eyes open
  • The person keeps feeling that there is something in the eye, and eyelids may tend to swell up.
  • The person may start having blurred vision.
First aid
  • Get the affected person to wash the eye with lukewarm water for about 20 minutes to remove the chemicals. Neither the first aid provider nor the affected person should use fingers or nails to wash the inside of their eye and let the water do the work.
  • A running faucet can be a good idea, or holding it under the gentle stream of the shower allows the water to flow on the side of the forehead of the affected eye. If both eyes are affected, point the water stream to the bridge of the nose and let the water run down by facing down.
  • If eye irrigation solutions are available at home, they can rinse the eye.
  • Smaller kids can lie in the tub back or lean in the sink and allow a gentle stream of water to flow over the forehead to the affected eye.
  • If the affected person is using contact lenses, remove them before the eye rinsing process.
  • Ensure the person providing first aid has no chemicals on their hands and hands are washed thoroughly before assisting the affected person.
  • Make sure the person doesn’t rub the eye when there has been a chemical splash. Placing a bandage over the eyelid would help.
  • Do not allow the affected person to put in any other drops or medication when a chemical splash has taken place.
  • After the rinse, it would be better for the affected person to go to the ophthalmologist and check their eyes along with the chemical container that has entered the eye. While waiting for the medical professional to attend to you, the person should wear sunglasses to prevent light sensitivity.
Rinsing of Eye

Rinsing the eye for at least 10-20 minutes helps to eliminate any residue of the chemicals that may be present in the eye. The tears of the eyes try to get the chemicals out, but water or eye irrigation solutions will help flush out the chemicals because the longer they stay in the eye, the more damage they may cause. Even if rinsing may not completely wash away the chemicals, it gets diluted. You must rinse before emergency services attend to you to remove the remaining chemicals. The medical professional will check on the extent of damage the chemical splash has done to the eye/eyes.

Rinse your eyes with water in case of first aid for chemical splash in eye.
Rinse your eye thoroughly with water in case of a chemical splash in the eye.
When to go to the doctor immediately
  • Severe burns are caused by alkali chemical splash, e.g., ammonia.
  • The person has an eye injury/ injury near the eye along with the chemical splash.
  • The affected person has a pre-existing eye condition.


  1. If it is an irritant that has caused the burns, the doctor will perform eye irrigation and prescribe
    • Antibiotic eye drops
    • Oral pain. Medications.
    • Sometimes, dilating eye drops.
    • An eye patch to ease discomfort.

For minor burn injuries, the ophthalmologist must examine the extent of the damage over two or more days to evaluate and prescribe a different line of treatment.

  1. If the burn is significant and the chemical is powerful, the affected person is admitted to the hospital.

The chemical eye splash can occur commonly and usually falls in the chemical irritants group. But at work and when dealing with concentrated chemicals, such as acids and alkalis, a person has to take preventive measures and ensure the safety of the eyes by using protective gear. Avoid the discomfort and serious injuries that may occur due to chemical splashes.

  1. Kaushik S, et al. Topical chemical burns: Initial assessment and management. Accessed Aug. 8, 2020.
  2. Thompson DA. Eye, chemical in. In: Pediatric Telephone Protocols: Office Edition. 16th ed. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2018.


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