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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
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Chemical in Eye


Acids and alkalis splashed into the eye can severely damage the cornea (clear part of the eye). However, most chemicals just cause temporary stinging and superficial irritation (for example, alcohol or hydrocarbons). All should be treated as emergencies until your physician or a Poison Control Center expert tells you otherwise.


Immediate and thorough irrigation of the eye with tap water is essential to prevent damage to the cornea. (Do not use antidotes such as vinegar.) This irrigation should be performed at home and as quickly as possible. Either hold your child's face up under a gently running water tap or have your child lie down and continuously pour lukewarm water into the eye from a pitcher or glass. It is very important to hold the eyelids open during this process. For most chemicals, the eye should be irrigated for 5 minutes. However, it should be irrigated for 10 minutes for acids and 20 minutes for alkalis. Call your child's physician IMMEDIATELY after irrigating the eye.


For minor irritants (for example, soap or food), see

Pink or Red Eye without Pus

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems