Contact lens solution safety can be a complex if-then task

We’ve posted before on confusing bottles, even those with labels. This latest problem comes from a type of contact lens solution that burns your eyes if you use it immediately, but does not if you’ve let your contacts sit in it for a long period of time.

Excerpts from the write up at Consumer Reports:

It is a hydrogen peroxide solution that you use overnight in a special lens case that causes the peroxide to fizz and clean the lenses. By morning, the caustic peroxide is neutralized, at which point you douse the lenses in the rinsing solution of your choice and put them in. My dispenser had issued a stern warning that I was never, ever to use the Clear Care as a rinse, or reinsert the lenses after any less than six hours of disinfection, or I would risk a corneal burn.

…The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) reports the FDA has received hundreds of complaints of similar mishaps, and you can easily find many more such accounts online. In our little corridor of offices here at Consumers Union alone we discovered two cases – my daughter’s and that of a colleague who made the same mistake when she asked to borrow rinsing solution at a relative’s home.

…there is a narrow red warning strip at the top, but all you can see from the front is “use only lens case provided,” which isn’t terribly informative but critically important, because if you use the product in a regular lens case, it won’t neutralize the peroxide. The bottle comes with a little cardboard collar that says “do not put Clear Care directly in eye,” but it can easily be removed (or fall off). And the dispenser has a red tip, which supposedly signals that you shouldn’t put the solution directly in your eye. Have you ever heard of this? My daughter sure hadn’t.

And nowhere on the bottle is there an explicit warning that putting the stuff directly in your eye can cause a chemical burn. Or, for that matter, instructions on what to do if you make that mistake (rinse your eye with copious water or saline, it turns out)…

I made this mistake myself back in 1996 when visiting a friend and borrowing their contact lens solution. I even noticed the red tip and thought it was an attractive branding idea — moments before thinking I was going to go blind from the pain.

How would you address this warning issue? Any creative ideas? It is complicated by the solution changing hazard status after being neutralized.

4 thoughts on “Contact lens solution safety can be a complex if-then task”

  1. Why not make it a different color (red=burns?) to signify that it works differently than the standard contact lens solution? Perhaps ideally it should be red at the beginning when it shouldn’t contact your eye, and then change to clear when it’s safe?

  2. I’m not sure I know what the bottle looks like, but shouldn’t it be just as different from regular lens washing solutions as the method of using it is? Not only the red tip, but a bottle shaped differently to signify that it isn’t to be used the same way that rinsing solutions should be used. When similar products have bottles that are shaped the same, I often assume, same use/different brand. By shaping the bottle differently, you ask the consumer not to assume it’s the same as other solutions, thereby requiring more attention to what it does. Likewise, it should have a safety cap that doesn’t allow the solution to be squeezed out if it is turned upside-down. In other words, create a lens case that requires the bottle be attached with the case upside-down rather than the solution bottle. Squeeze while the bottle is upright, then flip the case so it’s sitting on the counter, remove bottle from lens case where you close and leave it overnight.

  3. I don’t know about this issue… I am just concern about how safe is the contact lenses. I have heard so many issues about it. Some are good and some are bad so I am a little bit confused or lost right now. Can anyone clear my questions? This decision of mine is for my young kid who has astigmatism. Please help!!!!!!

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