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Eyedrops can be toxic to children

visine eyedropsThe FDA recently made a safety announcement to remind us to keep over the counter “red eye” medications like Visine and OptiClear out of the hands of our kids. Did you know that if an infant or toddler drinks as little as 0.6 mL of Visine, it could put him into a coma?

The report describes 96 cases (from 1985 to 2012) of children aged 1 month to 5 years old who inadvertently ingested the contents of allergy eyedrops or nasal decongestant sprays. Some children had been chewing or sucking on the bottles, which are not child-resistant. No one died, but half of the kids ended up in the hospital for symptoms like: heart rate abnormalities, decreased breathing, stupor, hypothermia, drooling, nausea/vomiting, and coma. The children had swallowed anywhere from 0.6 mL to ~45 mL of the medications. (These drops come in 15 mL and 30 mL bottles.)

The bad stuff

These “get the red out” eyedrops contain imidazoline derivatives (tetrahydrozoline, oxymetazoline, or naphazoline) — that work by constricting blood vessels on the surface of your eye. When ingested by a small child, they can produce a coma. Just because these drops are “over the counter” doesn’t mean that they are harmless.

What you can do

  • Keep all medications out of the reach of your kids. Store them up high.
  • Don’t use them in front of your children. I don’t know about your kids, but if do something like putting on lip balm in front of my kids, they immediately want to do the same thing.
  • Close the bottles after every use (this will also help prevent the eyedrops from becoming contaminated).

If you think your child has swallowed some of your eyedrops, call Poison Control 800-222-1222 and then seek immediate emergency care.


Note: I have no financial relationship to any of the products discussed in this post.


One comment on “Eyedrops can be toxic to children

  1. dr Pascal
    March 31, 2014

    Thanks! I would love to have your updates

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