Hand sanitizer in the eyes

Hand sanitizer gets in the eyes when one accidentally sprays the liquid into their eyes or rubs their eyes before the sanitizer fully evaporates. A recent study from France found that children may suffer more eye injuries due to the frequent use of hand sanitizer during the pandemic. The Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology found that pediatric eye exposure to hand sanitizer was seven times higher in 2020 than it was in 2019.

Hand sanitizer in the eyes in Olympia

Can hand sanitizer harm your eyes?

An excessive amount of hand sanitizer that contains a high concentration of alcohol can cause corneal abrasions or keratitis if left in the eye for a prolonged period of time.There is usually a limited amount of liquid hand sanitizer that can squirt into the eye. The good news is that complications are rare and the injury is not as severe as other chemical injuries. The likelihood of complications from getting hand sanitizer in your eyes decreases significantly when you take immediate steps to flush your eyes. 

American Family Vision Clinic

What to do if hand sanitizer gets in your eyes?

If you get hand sanitizer in your eye, it’s important to avoid rubbing it and to flush your eye as soon as possible. You should flush your eyes for at least 20 minutes with clean, room temperature tap water after a chemical splash.

You can use your shower or a sink to flush your eye. You can also use an emergency eyewash station if you have access to one. Regardless of which method you choose, make sure the water isn't too hot to avoid further damage to your eyes.

When using a sink, lean over the basin and adjust the tap to a gentle flow. Allow the water to flow into your eye while tilting your head to the side.

Any burning or stinging sensations in your eyes, or any changes in vision or loss of vision is considered an eye emergency. If after flushing your eyes you still have strong burning or vision loss, you should visit us at American Family Vision Clinic as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms. In case of an eye emergency, you can call us at (360) 491-2121 to schedule an appointment. 

What are the possible symptoms you may experience if you get hand sanitizer in your eyes?

A hand sanitizer usually contains alcohol to kill bacteria and germs that might make you sick. 

Chemical burns can be caused by alcohol on the cornea, which is the outermost layer of your eyes. Your cornea is a transparent layer that protects your eye and directs light toward your retina.

In the event that you get hand sanitizer in your eye, these symptoms may occur:

  • Redness
  • Stinging or burning pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Tearing
  • Trouble keeping your eye open
  • Swelling
What are the possible symptoms you may experience if you get hand sanitizer in your eyes?
When should you see a doctor if you got sanitizer in your eyes?

When should you see a doctor if you got sanitizer in your eyes?

After flushing your eye with water, the pain and irritation should go away within a couple of hours. However, if you’re experiencing persistent sharp pain, got a large amount of hand sanitizer in your eye, or your symptoms don’t get better within a couple of hours, it’s a good idea to see an eye care professional or get emergency medical attention.

A doctor may irrigate your eyes again even if you’ve already done it. They can also perform a pH strip test to ensure that all alcohol has been removed, as well as an eye exam to monitor the damage.

To schedule an emergency eye exam, call us at (360) 491-2121. The eye doctors at American Family Vision Clinic have the skills and equipment to provide you with immediate relief.

Common Questions

In the majority of cases, hand sanitizer-induced eye injuries do not cause permanent damage if they are treated promptly and appropriately. Even so, getting hand sanitizer in your eye is still dangerous. Hand sanitizer can cause serious eye injuries in children more often than in adults. The reason is that automatic hand sanitizer dispensers in public areas are usually placed at children's eye level. In addition, some of these hand sanitizer bottles are complex for children to use, leading to accidents such as getting some product in the eyes. In case of an eye emergency, you can call us at (360) 491-2121 or visit us at American Family Vision Clinic.
Hand sanitizer which sometimes is also called hand antiseptic, handrub, or hand rub usually contains alcohol as the main sanitizing agent. However there are some variations, and certain forms of hand sanitizer may pose a greater risk to your eyes. Alcohol based hand sanitizers contain the active ingredient called ethanol (ethyl alcohol) or isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol or 2-propanol). Both of these alcohols require flushing of the eyes as explained above. Surface disinfectants or sprays are not hand sanitizer and are not for use on human skin. In the event that a surface disinfectant gets in your eye please call our office right away at (360) 491-2121 to get more specific guidance Since the type of chemical used in these products differ, it is important to call our office and ask what to do based on the main ingredients. Another ingredient that is used in hand sanitizers and wipes is benzalkonium chloride antiseptic. Benzalkonium chlorides (BACs) are chemicals with widespread uses since they have broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties against bacteria, fungi, and viruses. In lower doses this chemical is used as a preservative in eye drops. However in higher doses such as those used for antiseptic or disinfectant sprays or wipes, it has been shown to cause irritation and inflammation. Considerable cell toxicity was observed in human ocular cells exposed to BAC concentrations as low as 0.0001%.
It is not recommended to disinfect eyeglasses using alcohol-based hand sanitizers because they can damage the lenses as well as the frame, and may cause damage to your eyes. If you wish to disinfect your lenses and frames, you can use branded sprays and wipes available in optical stores and online.
Hand sanitizer in the eyes
Dr. Zurcher cartoon

Some simple precautions you can take to protect your eyes - Place hand sanitizer dispensers out of reach of children, If you intend to touch your face, be sure to rub the liquid sanitizer well into your hands, You can minimize the force of sanitizer by using foam sanitizer and make sure that the nozzle of the bottle is clear. Patients with eye emergencies visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of urgent eye care for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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