Seniors  |  Adults  |  Look alikes  |  Medication safety

Which Is For Your Eyes? Your Ears?

The Bottom Line

Mistakenly putting glue into your eyes or ears can cause pain and injury.

The Full Story

These look-alikes fool people who don't read the labels carefully!

  • Ear drops in your eyes can cause irritation and pain.
  • Using glue instead of eye drops can glue your eyelids shut, causing pain, eyelash loss, and injury to the surface of your eye.
  • Using glue instead of eardrops can cause a blockage requiring surgery to remove.

Prevent these injuries by reading labels carefully, every time you use a medicine or household product. If you mistakenly use glue instead of ear drops or eye drops, call Poison Control right away for advice at 1-800-222-1222. Help is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year. 

Rose Ann Gould Soloway, RN, BSN, MSEd, DABAT emerita
Clinical Toxicologist


Duvvi SK, Lo S, Kumar R, Spraggs PDR. Superglue (cyanoacrylate) in the nose. Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. 2005;133:803-804.

Yusuf IH, Patel CK. A sticky sight: cyanoacrylate "superglue" injuries of the eye. BMJ Case Rep. 2010; 2010: bcr11.2009.2435. Published online Mar 23, 2010. doi: 10.1136/bcr.11.2009.2435


Call 1-800-222-1222 or

HELP ME online

Prevention Tips

Read the label before giving or taking medicine - every single time.

This Really Happened

Case 1: A 60-year-old man put glue in one eye by mistake, thinking it was his eye drops. He was brought to the emergency room with his eyelid glued shut. The emergency physician consulted Poison Control. Poison Control advised applying a gauze pad soaked in either mineral oil or an ophthalmic (eye) antibiotic ointment to the eyelid; usually this alone will loosen the dried glue and it will come off within a day or two. Poison Control followed up on the patient by phone the following day. He had seen an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) who told him the eye would be fine. The ointment-soaked compress helped loosen the glue, and he could almost open his eye fully.

Case 2: An 80-year-old woman presented to the emergency room with eye pain, tearing and blurry vision. She had inadvertently instilled ear drops containing a high percent of rubbing alcohol into her eyes the previous night, about 10 hours before. She did irrigate her eyes at home but her symptoms worsened. Her eyes were examined in the emergency room and only irritation and redness were found; fortunately she had no corneal injury. She was prescribed an antibiotic eye ointment and moisturizing eye drops and sent home feeling more comfortable.