What happens if you drink eye drops?

In this brief blog, we will address the question,”What happens if I drink eye drops?” We will look at the active ingredient in eye drops. We will discuss the precautions to take with eye drops and what to do if someone drinks eye drops.

What happens if you drink eye drops?

Drinking eye drops is very dangerous and can cause illness and even death. Eye drops are not intended for oral ingestion as they are toxic. In fact a 52 year fomer Veterans Affairs nurse, Lana Clayton made headlines when she murdered her husband by putting eye drops in his drink.

What ingredient is in eye drops?

The active ingredient in eye drops that reduces the redness in the eyes is tetrahydrozoline and it is a duly approved ingredient by the United States Food and Drug Administration since 1954. The administration has categorized the risk of eye drops as low because they are meant for external use. Tetrahydrozoline belongs to a group of drugs known as imidazoles.

Tetrahydrozoline is used in the most common marketed eye drops such as Visine, Altazine, Murine Plus, Clarine and various other OTC eye drops. Tetrahydrozoline assists in removing the redness from the eyes by constricting the blood vessels.

What happens if you orally ingest eye drops?

Oral ingestion of eye drops whether it is intentional or accidental can be fatal as previously mentioned because it can cause toxic blood levels. However, when correctly used in the eyes as per the instructions to reduce the redness in the eyes, eye drops are not absorbed in the system in toxic amounts.

When you drink eye drops, tetrahydrozoline passes through the gastrointestinal tract very fast and goes into the bloodstream and the central nervous system quickly which as mentioned can reach toxic levels and be fatal. 

Some symptoms of tetrahydrozoline overdose are drowsiness, slow breathing and absence of breathing, hypothermia (body temperatures below 35 degrees celsius) and can even result in a coma.

What are the precautions I should take with eye drops?

As previously mentioned, serious harm may be caused by accidental ingestion of over-the-counter (OTC) redness-relief eye drops which contain tetrahydrozoline as this product is intended to be used in the eyes only.

  • You should ensure that you keep these products out of the reach of children at all times. 
  • If a child inadvertently swallows these products, immediately call the toll-free Poison Help Line (1-800-222-1222) for emergency medical care.

You should report side effects you experience from using these products or any medication errors to the FDA MedWatch program.

What should I do if a person drinks eye drops?

Follow the below steps if a person has orally ingested eye drops:

  • According to the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) of these products you should never induce vomiting.
  • Examine the lips and mouth to know if this has caused damage to the tissues which is a possible indication that the toxic material was ingested.
  • If you do not find these signs, this might not be conclusive that they did not ingest. Loosen any tight clothing such as the belt, collar, waistband, tie etc If you find that the patient is not breathing you should perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  • Immediately call the toll-free Poison Help Line (1-800-222-1222) for emergency medical care.

Conclusion

In this brief blog, we have addressed the question,”What happens if I drink eye drops?” We have looked at the active ingredient in eye drops. We have discussed the precautions to take with eye drops and what to do if someone drinks eye drops.

Citations

https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-drug-safety-communication-serious-adverse-events-accidental-ingestion-children-over-counter-eye

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