by Michael R. Cohen, R.Ph.
Here’s advice about seemingly harmless over-the-counter eye drops, such as Visine and similar products containing the active ingredients tetrahydrozoline, oxymetazoline, or naphazoline. These drugs are quite dangerous if ingested. Severe side effects have been documented after swallowing as little as a teaspoonful.
On Thursday, the FDA posted an alert about this. We also alerted the public about the issue on our Facebook account last August. These products are not marketed in childproof containers, putting small children at risk for an accidental exposure. The products are also colorless, odorless and tasteless, which can increase the risk that a child might drink it. People tend to just throw the drops in purses, drawers, counter tops, etc. Adults might not think of it as dangerous, so they may not think twice about storage (looks, smells & tastes fine so it must be harmless). Don’t let this colorless, odorless and tasteless liquid fool you! Visine and other similar products should never be placed in diaper bags, purses or areas where children can easily access them.
The labeling on these products does not support safe use considering how dangerous the products can be. The “Keep out of reach of children, if swallowed get medical help right away” warning is extremely small and certainly nothing that would be of any use unless your child already swallowed it. They should probably have something a bit more prominent and alert like.