KidsMD Health Topics

Chemical Burns of the Eye

  • Overview

    What are chemical burns?

    Chemical burns occur when a child gets any type of chemical in his or her eye. This is a medical emergency, and the child should receive immediate medical care. Chemical burns can result in a loss of vision and even a loss of the eye itself, if not treated promptly and accurately. Household cleaning agents are a common cause of this type of injury.

    How Boston Children's Hospital approaches chemical burns of the eye

    In most cases, children are sent immediately to our emergency room where treatment is provided by experienced pediatric environmental medicine toxicologists. An ophthalmologist (physician who specializes in comprehensive eye care) will usually be involved in the care of the child.

    »
    If your child has had a burn to the eye as a result of a chemical, contact 9-1-1 immediately.
    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115
     617-355-6700
     fax: 617-730-0033


    »
    The Center offers evaluation and management of children with known or suspected exposure to environmental toxins, including paints, stripping chemicals and pesticides.
    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115
     617-355-8177
     fax: 617-730-0049

    ADDITIONAL SERVICES THAT TREAT THIS CONDITION
    +
    To learn more about preventing injuries, contact our Injury Prevention Program. [ visit the site ]
    Boston Children's Hospital
    300 Longwood Avenue
    BK 120
    Boston MA 02115
     617-919-3071
    Boston Children's Hospital 
    300 Longwood Ave
    BK 120
    Boston MA 02115
     617-919-3068

  • In-Depth

  • Tests

    How is a chemical burn diagnosed?

    Diagnosis is usually made after a complete medical history and physical examination of your child's eye. Local anesthetic drops in the eye may be used in order to examine your child.

  • Treatment includes:

    • We immediately wash your child's eye with saline for about 20 to 30 minutes.
    • Local anesthetic drops may be placed in your child's eye prior to the washing to help decrease the pain.
    • The eye is usually held open with a special instrument to assure the saline gets into the eye.
    • Some children may need to be sedated under general anesthesia in order to perform the procedure.

    What are the symptoms of chemical burns?

    The following are the most common symptoms of chemical burns in the eye. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

    • severe pain in the eye
    • burning of the eye
    • tearing of that eye
  • Research & Innovation

    Boston Children's Hospital is home to the Pediatric Environmental Health Center, which provides comprehensive, coordinated services for children exposed to environmental toxins. As well as offering clinical care, the center is researching important questions in pediatric environmental health, including:

    • How do lead and mercury affect children of different ages?
    • What is the best way to treat children with lead and mercury poisoning? When should medications that bind metals be used?
    • For adolescents that work: what type of toxic exposures do they have, and how can overexposures be prevented?
    • What do other health professionals, such as pediatric primary care providers, need to know about pediatric environmental health?
    • What are the best ways to promote education about pediatric environmental health issues?
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