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Chemical Burns of the Eye in Children

What are chemical burns of the eye in children?

Chemical burns happen when a chemical gets into your child’s eye.

What causes chemical burns of the eye in a child?

Chemical burns of the eye are often caused by household cleaning products. Some common products that cause this type of injury include:

  • Toilet cleaner

  • Battery fluid

  • Pool cleaner

  • Bleach

  • Vinegar

  • Glass polish

What are the symptoms of chemical burns of the eye in a child?

Symptoms may be a bit different for each child. They can include:

  • Severe eye pain

  • Burning of the eye

  • Tearing of the eye

The symptoms of chemical burns of the eye may look like symptoms of other eye issues or health problems. Have your child see his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is a chemical burn of the eye diagnosed in a child?

Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s health history. He or she will also give your child an eye exam. Your child may get local numbing (anesthetic) eye drops for the exam.

How are chemical burns of the eye treated in a child?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

A chemical burn to the eye is an emergency. You should seek medical help right away if your child gets a chemical into his or her eye.

Most children with a chemical burn will be treated in the emergency room. An eye healthcare provider (ophthalmologist) will often care for your child.

Treatment includes washing out your child’s eye with saline right away. This is done for about 30 minutes and sometimes longer depending on the type of chemical burn. Your child may get local numbing (anesthetic) drops into his or her eye to help ease the pain. The eye is often held open with a tool to make sure the saline gets into the eye. Some children may need to be sedated or placed under general anesthesia. Depending on the severity of the chemical burn, your child may need multiple eye drops several times each day for weeks or even months.

What are possible complications of chemical burns of the eye in a child?

If a chemical burn of the eye isn’t treated right away, your child could have vision loss. Your child may even lose his or her eye.

Key points about chemical burns of the eye in children

  • Chemical burns happen when a chemical gets into your child’s eye. These burns are often caused by household cleaning products.

  • This is an emergency. You should seek medical help right away if your child gets a chemical into his or her eye.

  • Treatment includes washing your child’s eye out with saline right away. This should be done for about 30 minutes and sometimes longer depending on the type of chemical burn.

  • Depending on the severity of the chemical burn, your child may need multiple eye drops several times each day for weeks or even months.

  • If a chemical burn of the eye isn’t treated right away, your child could have vision loss. Your child may even lose his or her eye.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.

  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.

  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.

  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.

  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.

  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.

  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.

  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.

  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Online Medical Reviewer: Chris Haupert MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2018
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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