Chemical burns sometimes occur when a chemical splashes into the eye or gets in contact with it. However, most injuries take place during accidents when the chemical splashes over a person’s face and when a chemical mishandles chemicals and rubs his eyes with contaminated hands.
The severity of the injury depends on the duration of the exposure and the strength of the irritant that gets in contact with the eye. Most of the time the effects of a chemical splash results in redness and irritation for a short period of time if necessary treatment is done, however, sometimes, long term effects may also result, causing blindness.
A chemical splash in the eye is more easily absorbed into the bloodstream compared to chemical exposure to the skin causing poisoning and severe effects to vision. Therefore, when dealing with chemicals and irritants, whether it is in a laboratory or a factory, it is crucial that you make sure that you wear goggles or a face shield while working. In case of mild chemicals such as shampoos or soaps, rinsing the eye is all the treatment that is required. Serious eye injuries are often caused by alkalis, acids and other potentially life-threatening chemicals.
- Burning sensation
- Swelling of the eyelids
Complications increase the risk of blindness
- Corneal ulcer-cut on the cornea
- Corneal perforation- corneal abrasion or damage in the cornea
- Cataracts-abnormal blurring of the lens
- Glaucoma-eye disease affecting the optic nerve of the eye
If a chemical or irritant splashes into your eye, follow these steps promptly:
1. Wash eyes with water
- You may place your head under a gentle shower or place your head on the side under a gentle running tap. Make sure the water is lukewarm.
- Channel the water towards the bridge of your nose, in case both eyes are exposed to the chemical.
- Keep your eyes open while flushing them.
- For young children, you may let them lie down in a bathtub and gently pour water from a cup.
- Continue washing for 20 minutes.
2. Wash both hands with soaps and water to make sure it is not contaminated.
3. If contact lenses do not come out while washing, remove them yourself.
- Do NOT rub the eyes.
- Do NOT use eye drops unless suggested by a medical professional. Only use water or lens saline if you are treating your eyes without any supervision.
- Call emergency medical help if irritation or redness persists for too long. In case of swelling in the eyelids, contact medical care immediately. Make sure you have the container of the chemical with you so that the doctor is aware of what he dealing with.
To learn more about workplace safety in case a chemical contacts your eye contact your WHMIS leader. To learn to recognize and manage these and other first aid emergencies take a workplace approved training course by visiting our locations page. Courses are offered throughout Canada in Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax, Regina, Saskatoon and Calgary.