Hand sanitizers hurting children’s eyes: Know some ways to keep your kids safe during COVID pandemic

Hand sanitizers hurting children’s eyes: Know some ways to keep your kids safe during COVID pandemic&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

Key Highlights

  • Hand sanitizers have been touted as one of the best ways to keep your hands clean, and prevent infection
  • However, as per data, the cases of eye injuries among kids are rising due to hand sanitizer use
  • Know some ways to keep your children’s eyes safe even as we need to use hand sanitizers to prevent COVID-19

New Delhi: Prevention from COVID-19 by following the various measures has been touted as one of the few ways to stay safe, and away from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, also called SARS-CoV-2. Hand hygiene remains important to keep diseases such as COVID-19 at bay since our hands become carriers of such pathogens from surfaces to our nose or mouth, where the virus can enter the body and cause disease. Frequent hand washing and use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers is recommended for prevention from COVID-19. However, as per recent studies, hand sanitizers are causing damage to people’s eyes, especially those of kids. 

According to recent reports, chemical injuries in children’s eyes have been reported as a result of hand sanitizers accidentally entering them. The study said that hand sanitizer dispensers in public places are putting young children at high risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals. As per data from the French Poison Control Center, cases of exposure to hazardous chemicals reported between April and August of 2020, were seven times more than the ones reported during the same period, a year earlier. 

In the same period, 16 children were admitted to a pediatric ophthalmology hospital in Paris, because hand sanitizer droplets entered their eyes, as compared to just one boy in 2019. Two severe cases required surgery to transplant tissue into their corneas. 

The cases where patients had to be hospitalized were in children all under the age of 4. as per researchers, this is because while the height at which sanitizer dispensers in public spaces are placed are mostly waist-level for adults, it is eye level for young children. 

“With the current widespread use of hand sanitiser in public places, it is not unexpected that young children would be drawn to these dispensers, many of which appear to be inadvertently designed to facilitate contact between the hand sanitiser and young eyes,” said Dr Kathryn Colby from the Grossman School of Medicine’s department of ophthalmology at New York University in a commentary that accompanied the research. The study was published in the journal JAMA Opthalmology on Thursday.

Hand sanitiser accounted for just 1.3 per cent of all chemical eye exposure incidents in children in 2019, according to the French database. That number was 9.9 per cent in 2020, and it said that most cases were mild.

The biggest risk to kids, the research also suggested, could come from dispensers installed in public places. In 2020, 63 cases of exposure occurred in a public place, while none was reported in 2019.

Many hand sanitisers have a high concentration of ethanol, which can kill cells in the cornea, putting young children at higher risk of serious eye injuries. 

A similar study published in the same journal stated physicians in India. They detail the cases of two children that accidentally squirted hand sanitiser in the eye, with serious consequences. The 4-year-old complained that she couldn’t stand to look at the light, while the 5-year-old had damage to his eyelid. Both children made full recoveries after treatment with saline washes and eye drops, but their doctors said it’s necessary to consider the potential hazards of hand sanitisers in public places and schools.

What you can do to keep your children safe from hand sanitizer injuries

Here are a few ways to minimize the risk of hand sanitizer injuries to eyes, especially among kids.

  • Since many hand sanitizer machines placed in public spaces are automated, make sure children steer clear of them, as they detect motion and release a spray/lump of sanitizer, which can enter their eyes.
  • Ensure children wear glasses at all times, especially if they have weak eyesight. Glasses can actually prevent the sanitizer from entering their eyes.
  • If the child is very young, make sure you give them the hand sanitizer yourself to disinfect their hands.
  • Prefer hand washing over hand sanitization, when a sink is accessible.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a professional healthcare provider if you have any specific questions about any medical matter.

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