UAE: Child damages eye after accidentally squirting hand sanitiser into it

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Dubai - She was rushed to the hospital immediately, and has now recovered.


Saman Haziq

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Published: Wed 28 Jul 2021, 2:08 PM

Last updated: Wed 28 Jul 2021, 2:13 PM

A four-year-old child in the UAE, who severely injured her eye after hand sanitiser from a foot-operated station was accidentally squirted directly into it, has now recovered.

According to her parents, the accident occurred when the child playfully touched the hand sanitiser station at a public place while she stood directly under it.

Narrating the incident, the mother said: "With Covid-19, we have taught our daughter to use soap and water for washing her hands, and to only use sanitisers if soap and water are not available. But because she saw everyone around her use it, she ran up to use it too. When she pressed the pedal of the dispenser, the hand sanitiser did not fall downwards but instead a large amount went straight into her eye and she began screaming in pain."

Before rushing her to a hospital, her parents immediately washed her eye thoroughly and kept repeating the process to flush out the chemicals.

"We somehow were able to open her eye and we could clearly see the corneal injury. That's when we decided to rush her to the hospital," she added.

The child was rushed to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, where doctors immediately washed the child's eye, administered antibiotics to prevent infection, and applied eye drops to reduce discomfort. She was diagnosed with a near total corneal abrasion caused by the alcohol and alkaline chemical additives in the sanitiser.

When the pain continued to escalate despite close follow-up over the following days, the doctors evaluated her eye under anesthesia and placed a self-retaining amniotic membrane -- a biological bandage -- used to heal large non-healing corneal abrasions.

Dr Brian Armstrong, a staff physician at Cleveland's eye institute said this was the first such case at the hospital that required amniotic membrane placement.

Doctors removed the amniotic membrane a week after it was placed and found that the corneal abrasion had completely healed. However, the cornea was dry and hazy, so doctors prescribed a course of medicated and lubricant eye drops, which helped treat the symptoms.

"Hand sanitiser dispensers at public places are often at the waist-level for adults but at the eye-level for children," said Dr Armstrong. "The chances of a child getting splashed in the eye are quite high. Most hand sanitisers have a high concentration of alcohol, which starts to break down the surface of the cornea immediately. We use it in measured doses to treat the cornea in specific instances, so we know just how effective it can be."

He added that paediatric eye injuries from alcohol-based hand sanitisers have been on the rise around the world since the start of the pandemic. "There has been a rise in ocular injuries in children caused by the unintentional exposure to hand sanitisers from self-dispensing units," he said.

What to do if hand sanitiser gets into your eye

"With this child, the pain may have increased over time as the alkaline solution penetrated deeper into her cornea. Immediate irrigation is advised in these cases and manual opening of the eye may be required. It is important to irrigate away from the unaffected eye to prevent any further damage," Dr Armstrong said.

According to him, “this is the kind of injury we would typically see among workers who are exposed to toxic materials or a chemical spill on a worksite. Delayed treatment of such injuries can have even worse repercussions in children compared to adults because their vision is still developing at such a young age. The risk of amblyopia, where vision fails to develop properly, is much higher at this age. The likelihood of complications following corneal transplantation, if necessary, is also much higher at this age."

Dr Armstrong urged parents to use soap and water preferably over hand sanitisers with their children wherever possible. "If this is not possible, parents should use neutral and natural hand sanitising solutions under strict supervision and teach their children to use only a small amount, making sure it completely dries prior to touching their eyes. If they happen to rub their eyes with sanitiser, immediately wash it out with water and visit a hospital if there is blurred vision or pain."

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