Ask the eye doctor: What if I get hand sanitizer in my eye?

what if i get hand sanitizer in my eye-article header

Effective hand washing is one of the best ways to stop the spread of viruses. Good old-fashioned soap and water will do the trick, as will alcohol-based hand sanitizers. They’re all the rage at the moment, with recent demand up 1,400% — and for good reason. 1

While hand sanitizer doesn’t kill all viruses, it is effective against the coronanavirus.2 Experts recommend an alcohol concentration of between 60-95%.3

And while we know that swallowing hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning,4 what happens if you get sanitizer in your eye?

EyeMed’s medical director, Joe Wende, OD, says you might first notice stinging, burning or redness in the eye. You may be tempted to rub your eyes, but don’t.

Instead irrigate the eye with clean, lukewarm water, preferably for at least 10 minutes. While you do, keep the other eye tightly closed to avoid cross contamination.

Afterwards, your eye might still be red or irritated, but less so than before. You should be as good as new within a few hours. If not, consult an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

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1.“Demand for hand sanitizers up 1,400% and sellers are rationing supplies,”, accessed April 2020.

2.“Can’t get your hands on hand sanitizer? Make your own,”, accessed April 2020.

3.“Show me the science — When and how to use hand sanitizer in community settings,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,, accessed April 2020.

4. Ibid.