Eye Injuries in the Kitchen

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on August 20, 2022
2 min read

Nearly half of the estimated 2.5 million eye injuries reported each year happen in and around the home. Almost half come from everyday activities like cooking.

You can take simple steps to protect your eyes when you’re in the kitchen:

Keep safety glasses handy. They aren’t just for folks who use power tools. There’s a place for them in the kitchen, too. They can shield your eyes while you clean the oven with caustic chemicals or when you pour drain cleaners into the sink. They can also keep food irritants, like hot pepper oil, out of your eyes. Look for products approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Wash your hands often. If you touch your eyes after you chop foods like onions or hot peppers, you’ll put the hot stuff right into your eye. That’ll cause pain, redness, and maybe even tears. If you forget to wash your hands before you remove contact lenses, it can be really bad. Be really careful with hot peppers, which contain a fiery oil called capsaicin. It’s the same stuff used to make pepper spray. To keep it out of your eyes, wash your hands with soapy water. Don't forget to clean the chopping board, too.

Know the basics of eye-related first aid. Accidents happen. You can lower the chances for injury if you know how to respond quickly to these eye emergencies.

Eye irritants:

  • Wash your eye right away. Use cool tap water or saline solution, the same stuff you use to clean your contacts.
  • Blink your eye again and again to helps your tears flow.

Caustic chemicals:

  • Wash your eye with cool tap water or saline solution.
  • Call your doctor or go to the emergency room. Continue to wash your eye with drops while you wait.
  • If you think a strong and harmful chemical such as drain or oven cleaner has splashed into your eye, it is helpful to position yourself under the shower with someone helping you to keep your eyelids open. 

You get hit in the eye:

  • For a minor injury, gently hold a cold pack to the injured eye and call your eye doctor.
  • If your eye is bleeding or you notice a change in your vision or pain when you move your eyes, call the doctor right away or go to the nearest emergency room.

You get something in your eye:

  • Don't rub it.
  • Pull the upper eyelid down over the lower eyelid. Blink several times. This lets your lower eyelashes sweep stuff out.
  • If this doesn't help, rinse with water or saline solution.
  • If you just can’t get it out, call your doctor or go to the emergency room.

With a few simple safety rules, you can avoid accidents and make cooking a trouble-free pleasure.