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Hand sanitizer harms children’s eyes

The good news: Most cases were relatively mild in severity, which means eye pain, stinging or acute inflammation, swelling and / or discoloration (“conjunctival hyperemia”).

The bad news: Six “moderately severe” cases involved limited “keratitis,” an inflammatory condition that affects the cornea. Several children had severe corneal damage.

And while none of the 2019 cases involved public exposure to hand sanitizer, 63 did in 2020, most in French malls.

Public exposure also took place in restaurants, cinemas, open public spaces, sports arenas and swimming pools by contact with an vending machine or foot pedal.

In France (as in the United States), the availability of public distributors increased as the pandemic unfolded. And in France, pediatric eye trauma appears to be increasing in tandem, according to the study.

This is likely due to the fact that public distributors are typically about 3 feet tall for a small child, noted Martin and his team.

As such, Yangzes offered a recommendation: “Lower the height of alcohol dispensers so that the level is under the eyes of children. [and] ”She urged. A warning sign should be placed next to dispensers as a precaution, she added.

AAO’s Tuli noted that disinfectant-related injuries can also occur when the alcohol has not yet evaporated and a child rubs their eyes.

“Usually the blink reflex protects us from getting a lot of disinfectant into the eye and the tearing dilutes it,” she says. “So we see shampoo-like irritation in the eyes.”

But if more than a small amount of disinfectant reaches the eye, Tuli said it could do more damage.

“It can cause corneal abrasions, where the epithelium of the cornea or conjunctiva can be damaged, such as a scratch on the eye from a nail injury. It can be very painful, but luckily heals quickly. “said Tuli. “If a large amount gets into the eye, it can cause larger defects, which may require more interventions to heal.”

Since the hand sanitizer is sterile, she added, infections or permanent damage are rare.

More information

There is more on the safe use of hand sanitizer at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Sonal Tuli, MD, clinical spokesperson, American Academy of Ophthalmology; Sonam Yangzes, MBBS, MS, DNB, consultant, lens, cornea and refraction services, Grewal Eye Institute, Chandigarh, India; Ophthalmology JAMA, January 21, 2021, online