Although a key infection control intervention, the ubiquitous presence of alcohol-based hand hygiene dispensers has led to an increase in people reporting severe eye irritations and injuries, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns.

Splashes of the sanitizer or touching the eye after disinfecting hands “can result in serious injury, including severe irritation and damage to the surface of the eye,” the FDA said.1

“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.”

To prevent this adverse event, the FDA recommends that healthcare professionals do the following 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,” the agency recommended. “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.”


  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA warns that getting alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the eye can cause serious injury. Published
    Nov. 9, 2021.