We’ve been called to a few sewer jobs where the homeowner is upset. “I got sewage in my eye,” he or she tells us, “What should I do?” It happens more than you think, as few people even consider putting on safety equipment, like goggles, when they are investigating a sewer issue in their own home.

We aren’t doctors, but we’ve had our share of close encounters with sewer water. We can tell you what to do and what not to do if you’ve got a drop of sewage in your eye.

Rinse Don’t Rub

Getting some sewage in your eye is a gross experience, and your first instinct will be to rub your eye. Don’t do that, as you’re likely to embed the sewer water further in your eye. Plus, if the sewage brought something small but solid into your eye, rubbing it can scratch the protective membrane on your eye or even your iris.

Instead, go to the nearest source of safe water, like a kitchen sink that has been unaffected by whatever is going on with your sewer. Rinse out your eye gently. It shouldn’t hurt and should remove anything solid in your eye.

Don’t add chemicals, soaps, hand sanitizer, or anything else to your eye expect for clean water unless a doctor tells you to. You can do more damage to your sight and health by putting something into your eye.

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Call a Health Professional

Do you think it is a bit extreme to reach out to a doctor right away? Maybe it seems that way, but the eye is a very vulnerable part of your body. Many blood-borne infections, such as HIV and hepatitis C and B can get into your bloodstream through the eye. Unless someone in your home has one of these diseases, it’s unlikely it is in your sewage—but if someone does, you’d best head to the doctor.

Other bacteria and viruses that may be found in your sewage won’t necessarily infect your whole body after being sprayed in your eye but can create very serious eye infections. Your doctor will know best how to assess your risk for this and if anything needs to be done now to prevent an infection.

Signs of an Eye Infection

No matter what your doctor instructs you to do, they will also ask you to stay alert for signs of an eye infection and to return if you think you might be developing one. Signs of an eye infection include:

  • Itchy eye
  • Pain or burning
  • Feeling something is in eye
  • Eye is tearing up
  • Sensitivity to light
  • It hurts when gently touched
  • Discharge from eye
  • Dried discharge around eye
  • Pinkness in “whites” or eyes
  • Swollen, discolored eyelid

If you start to see any of these symptoms, you should head back to the doctor. Also, the next time you think you could be exposed to sewer water, wear protective eyeglasses, boots and gloves to prevent skin, or eye, contact.