Skip to main content
Home » Eye to Eye Articles » Safety at Home Chemical Eye burns in Children

Safety at Home Chemical Eye burns in Children

Laundry pacs, often referred to as “pods,” are a convenient replacement for jugs of liquid or boxes of powder detergent. The soap is contained within a compact, water-soluble packet that dissolves in the wash. They are simply thrown into the bottom of the washer and then clothes are added on top. Although pods represent just 14 percent of the overall market, they’ve already surpassed powder detergents after just a few years. They are about 50 percent more expensive per load than powder or liquid but the convenience factor can’t be denied.

The colorful packaging is a big part of the problem with respect to the danger they pose to children. The pods are very often mistaken by children as candy. So much so that in the first six months of 2015, poison-control centers nationwide received 6,046 reports of kids 5 and younger ingesting or inhaling pods, or getting pod contents on their skin or in their eyes, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) . As early as September 2012, Consumer Reports called on manufacturers to make pods safer. Many responded with changes like switching from clear to opaque plastic for outer containers and, on some, adding child-resistant latches to make it more difficult to get to the pods.

Recent research reported in the American Medical Association Journal of Ophthalmology cited a nationwide spike in eye-related chemical burns due to laundry detergent pods. The ever-popular pods now account for 25 percent of chemical-related eye injuries in kids aged 3 to 4. As recent as 2015, laundry pods caused 26 percent of all chemical eye burns in this age group.

Chemical eye burns can be devastating to the eye and to vision. They are considered ocular emergencies. Whether by gas, liquid or solid, an acid or alkaline base can cause irreversible damage to the eye and surrounding tissue if not addressed immediately. If your child’s eyes are exposed to the contents of a detergent pod, the following actions are recommended:

• Begin rinsing the eye with a continuous stream of cold water for at least 20 minutes to dilute the corrosive properties of the chemicals.

• Allow water to run form the bridge of the nose outward across the eye. This avoids exposing the other eye to the chemical you are rinsing out.

• If both sides are affected, you can either alternate sides or allow the water to flow over both eyes at once.

• Next, place an eye pad or washcloth over the area to prevent the child from rubbing it.

• Go immediately to your nearest eye doctor’s office or emergency room

Delaying treatment for even minutes can result in significantly more damage. The damage from chemical eye burns can be to the lid tissue, conjunctiva and cornea. The degree to which the tissue is affected is dependent on the chemical and the exposure time. Permanent damage can occur to the cornea resulting in scarring and vision loss. Extensive corneal burns can also lead to secondary glaucoma. It is imperative prompt attention be taken in these cases to ensure the best possible outcome.

At Cockrell Eyecare Center we have a doctor on call full time. If you experience an eye emergency of any type after hours or on the weekend, please contact our office in Stillwater at 405-372-1715. During normal business hours, we are happy to take eye emergency walk-ins as necessary. We invite you will visit our website at and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eyecare Center!