Wait! Those aren’t your eye drops!

Thousands of Australians put the wrong medication in their eyes every year. Find out what the worst culprits are and how to avoid this painful mistake.

A recent review of calls, made between 2004 and 2011, to the NSW Poisons Information Centre has found 1290 cases of people putting the wrong medication into their eyes, as well as 900 cases of people accidentally applying superglue to their eyes.

The main culprits were steroids, antiseptics, antifungals, antibacterial, ear wax removal liquids and decongestant products. The most common cause of these errors was mistaken identity – often products can look very similar and without careful checking it can be easy to mix them up.

These four products were the main culprits. As you can see, the bottles all look similar to eye-drop bottles. Some of the most dangerous mix-ups happen, however, with ear drops, as they often contain chemicals which are more damaging to the eye.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices suggests that, in order to avoid getting it wrong when medicating your eyes, you should:

  • Keep all drops in the original box
  • Store different types of drops in different locations
  • Discard any old or leftover medication
  • Read the bottle carefully before administering

It might seem simple, but the figures don’t lie – thousands of people all across Australia make this mistake every year. Make sure you read the bottle carefully before applying any eye medication – you’ve only got two of them and, as we all know, it hurts something shocking when you get the wrong thing in your eyes, even if it’s not doing any damage.

If you have put the wrong medication (or even superglue) in your eye, you should call the Poison Information Centre, which is a national, government-run, 24-hour service on 131 126.