Hand Sanitizer and Blindness in Young Children

Hand Sanitizer and Blindness in Young Children

When you think of hand sanitizer, especially in these dire times living during a pandemic, what comes to mind? I would personally say positive things such as it being a great way to do away with germs and great for disinfecting items although perhaps drying up your hands after using the hand sanitizer.

Since the pandemic, the use of hand sanitizer has spiked greatly, which of course makes sense and is a good thing. However, with this spike in hand sanitizer use, also comes a spike in the number of chemical burns to the eye — mainly children under the age of 18. Before the pandemic,  such cases accounted for roughly 1.3% and it has now reached a jaw-dropping 10% amount of cases more than seven times what it was previously.

“Children are naturally curious and great mimics,” wrote New York University ophthalmologist Kathryn Colby. An ophthalmologist is basically a doctor that specializes in diagnosing the eyes.

Hand sanitizer can be so harsh on the eyes because it typically contains high concentrations of alcohol, typically in the form of ethanol, which can kill certain cells in the cornea. Although some good news is that most of the cases reported were relatively mild in severity, meaning some eye irritation/pain, acute inflammation, swelling, and some discoloration. Although there have been some pretty severe ones reaching extremes of becoming blind.

David Orth a world-renowned retina specialist said, “the data shows it’s time for a public awareness campaign to keep kids away from dispensers.”

Many ophthalmologists are recommending to parents to either keep an eye on children when using hand sanitizer or to stick to the good ole soap and water cleaning method.

Sonam Yangzes an ophthalmologist from India urges to, “Lower the height of alcohol dispensers so that the level is below the children’s eyes and face,” also adds that “A caution sign should be placed next to dispensers as a precaution.”

Do not fear though typically the chemicals in the hand sanitizer will dissolve and even if your kid does get it in their eye, they should be fine after a quick trip to the doctor and getting a washout of the eye with a solution of saline. No long-term effects should come from this although there is always a chance which just goes to show keep an eye on your children.