How to prevent nail glue from getting in your eyes

Keeping glue and other products near medications such as eye drops can lead to uncomfortable - if not dangerous - mix-ups.

Rule #1 for people who use eye drops: Read container labels. Rule #2: Don’t keep Super Glue-type products within 50 feet.

I’ve written previously about people accidentally gluing their eyes shut by mistaking Super Glue or similar products for eye drops. At the time, it had just happened to a New Jersey woman, but countless others before and since have accidentally put these products into their eyes, causing corneal abrasions and sometimes leaving their eyelids stuck together. 

Last week I heard from someone who accidentally instilled fingernail glue into her eyes. Fingernail glue has the same ingredient as the Super Glue-type products, cyanoacrylate adhesive. So, it’s probably not a bad idea for me to publish a reminder.

The person we heard from reported that she’d only recently begun to use fingernail glue and left it on her makeup counter, which is also where she placed her eye drops. Her routine was to place the eye drops in her eyes in the morning before applying her makeup. You can image what happened. On the day of the mix-up, distracted and in a rush to get out of the house, she inadvertently grabbed the glue and placed one drop in one eye. She immediately felt hot pain (burning) and realized exactly what she had done.

The woman told us that she immediately went to her doctor’s office, where her eyelashes were removed to eliminate the glue. She’s now wearing a protective lens because her eye was scratched by the dried glue and she’s also taking antibiotics to prevent infection, as well as pain medication.

The two products she confused were Kiss brand fingernail glue and an eye drop called timolol. They are both in small dropper bottles, but the mix-up was more about grabbing something “without thinking.”

When you do something like put glue in your eye you’re not only being injured physically, but likely emotionally, as well. You’re apt to be embarrassed and feel mortified that you can make such a mistake. In fact, the woman told us she’d previously heard about Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband doing this, and thought: “How could someone be so dumb?”

Slips like putting glue in your eye instead of eye drops usually result from distractions or failure to pay attention at critical moments, which we all do at one time or another. We can all fall victim to functioning in an “automatic” mode.

I did just that myself over the holidays, when I accidentally bought regular Coca Cola in the new red-and-white aluminum cans when I really meant to buy Diet Coke, in a similar aluminum can. I just picked it up and went with the wrong thing, never taking the time to read the label until I got home and was putting the cans away. A lot of other people did the same thing, so Coca Cola ditched the new cans last month, right after introducing them.

The way to prevent mishaps like this is to not set yourself up to make mistakes in the first place.


  • If you must use Super Glue-type products or fingernail glue or some similar adhesive, buy it in packaging that looks and has a tactile feel that is unlikely to ever be confused with a dropper bottle. This is especially important if you use eye drops and may already have some visual impairment. There are products that come in a small tube or odd looking elongated bottle, for example.
  • Also, be sure to store glue far away from medications, and vice versa. Never keep glue in a medicine cabinet or around the bathroom or kitchen or wherever medications are kept. When using any medication, force yourself to read the label and be sure that lighting is optimal to improve your ability to see what product is on the shelf or you have in hand.
  • Finally, in the previous blog entry that I referenced above, I included additional information that Super Glue users ought to know in case something does go wrong and you accidentally glue two or more body parts together.
Sadly, there is no legislation in place mandating new packaging for these products, so these precautions are doubly important.


What about you? Feel free to share examples of similar mix-ups for readers below. 

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