AUDIENCE: Consumer, Health Professional, Pharmacy, Pediatrics, Caregivers
ISSUE: The FDA is warning that getting alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the eyes from splashing or touching the eyes after use of hand sanitizer can result in serious injury, including severe irritation and damage to the surface of the eye. Eye exposure to hand sanitizer has been reported in all age groups; however, it has occurred most often in children. Such eye injuries have become much more frequent, likely due to the marked increase in the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BACKGROUND: Hand sanitizers are over-the-counter (OTC) drug products that can help consumers reduce bacteria on their hands.
Consumers and Caregivers
- Do not use alcohol-based hand sanitizers in or near your eyes.
- After applying alcohol-based hand sanitizer to your hands, avoid touching your eyes because the alcohol in the hand sanitizer can cause severe irritation and damage to the surface of the eye.
- Adults should always supervise young children, particularly those younger than 6 years old, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially around dispensers containing these hand sanitizers, which often are at children’s eye level and can splash.
- Store alcohol-based hand sanitizers and all other OTC and prescription medicines up and away and out of children’s reach and sight.
- If alcohol-based hand sanitizer does accidentally splash or get in your eyes, or those of a child, immediately and thoroughly rinse them under gently running water such as from a sink tap, water bottle, or emergency shower for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Do not delay rinsing your eyes, as immediate rinsing is the most important thing you can do to reduce the risk of serious eye injury. If symptoms such as redness, pain, irritation, visual impairment, blurred vision, or light sensitivity persist after rinsing, seek an urgent eye examination.
- Always read and follow the directions and warnings on the OTC Drug Facts label. Also, before buying hand sanitizer, check FDA’s “do-not-use” list, as some hand sanitizer may contain or be contaminated with harmful ingredients.
- If alcohol-based hand sanitizer gets into a patient's eyes, urge them to immediately and thoroughly rinse their eyes under gently running water such as from a sink tap, water bottle, or emergency shower for at least 15 to 20 minutes. After rinsing, if symptoms such as redness, pain, irritation, visual impairment, blurred vision, or light sensitivity persist, advise the patient to seek an urgent eye examination.
- Check FDA’s “do-not-use” list before recommending or using a specific hand sanitizer, as some hand sanitizer may contain or be contaminated with harmful ingredients. Counsel consumers about the appropriate use of hand sanitizers, and encourage them to read and follow the directions and warnings on the OTC Drug Facts label.
Health care professionals, consumers and caregivers are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:
Complete and submit the report online.
Download form or call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return to the address on form, or submit by fax to 1-800-FDA-0178.
[11/02/2021 - Drug Safety Communication - FDA]