First aid

Updated 09 February 2015

Chemical burns of the eye

Chemicals which accidentally splash into the eye may rapidly harm its delicate surfaces and need prompt treatment.

Chemicals that accidentally splash into the eye may rapidly harm its delicate surfaces. Many household products, such as detergents and bleach, may cause serious damage if not treated promptly.

Home treatment

  • No time must be lost in washing out any chemicals. Place the eye directly under a gently running stream of water from a tap or shower, positioning the head so that contaminated water does not run into the other eye or down the face. You could also immerse the face in a bowl or sink of water. Rinse the eye thoroughly by moving the eye in all directions. Open the eyelids with your fingers to ensure that the water gets to all parts of the eye.
  • If the person is wearing contact lenses, don't try to remove the lens. Flush the eye out first.
  • If the burning sensation is severe or if a strong chemical such as an acid or alkali is involved, continue flushing with clean water for at least 20 minutes. Alkalis, which penetrate the eye and do the most damage, are slowly drawn out through the surface only by prolonged flushing.

See your doctor if:

  • The burning sensation isn't relieved within 30 minutes.
  • An acid or alkali was involved.
  • The eye remains red or continues to water after a few hours.
  • There is blurring of vision or the eye becomes sensitive to light.

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