Chemical Eye Injury

Chemical burns to the eyes are a medical emergency.

If you get a chemical in your eyes:

  • Immediately flush the eye with water by holding your head under the faucet or by pouring water into your eye from a clean container. Keep your eye open while flushing with water.
  • Continue flushing out your eye for 15 to 30 minutes.

If you are unsure about the danger of a chemical, if you do not know what it is, or if you have significant symptoms, go immediately to the nearest hospital’s emergency department.


  • pain
  • redness
  • irritation
  • tearing
  • feeling of something in the eye
  • swelling of the eye
  • blurred vision
  • loss of vision

After you flush your eye out, call Bishop Eye Care or have someone take you to the emergency department or urgent care center. All acid or alkali eye burns require immediate treatment and evaluation by a doctor. You should be taken immediately to the closest emergency department or call an ambulance to shorten the transportation time. Chemicals can continue to do eye damage for days to months after ocular exposure.

Types of Chemical Burns

  • Alkali burns are the most dangerous. Common alkali substances contain the hydroxides of ammonia, lye, potassium hydroxide,, magnesium, and lime. Substances that contain these chemicals include fertilizers, cleaning products (ammonia), drain cleaners (lye), oven cleaners, and plaster or cement (lime).
  • Acid burns can be caused by common acids, including sulfuric acid, sulfurous acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, acetic acid, chromic acid, and hydrofluoric acid. Substances that may contain these chemicals include glass polish (hydrofluoric acid) and vinegar,  An automobile battery can explode and cause a sulfuric acid burn.

Irritants are substances that have a neutral pH and tend to cause more discomfort to the eye than actual damage. Most household detergents fall into this category. Pepper spray is also an irritant. It can cause significant pain but usually does not affect vision and rarely causes any damage to the eye.