Safe Use of Hand Sanitizers in the Protection of Eyes

Dr. Maureen Hillery, Community Ophthalmologist in Community Services, HSE SE, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary provides the following guidance and advice in relation to the safe use of hand sanitisers as a protective public health measure against COVID-19.

“Recent publications have highlighted the rare but serious ocular injuries caused by Alcohol Based Hand Rubs (ABHR) in children. 

Though we have not had any reported cases of chemical corneal injuries in Ireland, we should be aware of the risk and make parents aware of the possible toxic effects on the eye by these alcohol containing products and advise how to minimise the risks and deal with the eye injury in an appropriate and timely manner.”

Dr. Hillery added, "The high alcohol content of these sanitisers make them very toxic to the corneal epithelium, stroma and stem cells. The gel formulations may add to the problems by adding to the toxic exposure time."

Precautionary Advice on the Safe Use of Santizers
Increasing awareness should include appropriately positioned signage, supervised use of product, use foam rather than gels, placing dispensers at the appropriate height for children / wheelchair users.

Parents should be advised not to allow children play/use mini ABHG (pocket sized) and encourage hand washing with soap at home.  All hand-sanitising devices should be checked regularly for proper use.

Make sure the nozzle/ dispenser outlet is not blocked.

In the event of an accidental eye injury, intensive irrigation with water should start immediately and continue while the appropriate and immediate medical help is sought.


17th February 2021