Super glue is a type of glue called a cyanoacrylate, a fast-setting liquid that bonds two surfaces together very quickly. When exposed to moisture, the liquid monomers (single units) present in cyanoacrylates cross-link (bind together) within 5-60 seconds, and form a strong bond of multiple units (polymer) which are waterproof. In other words, if a monomer is one link on a chain, a polymer is the whole chain tightly linked together.
Many times during use, things get stuck together by mistake: skin-to-skin (such as fingers glued together) or skin-to-object (such as gluing a finger to the table). In addition, bottles of super glue have a similar shape as an eye medication bottle, and sometimes super glue is accidentally put into the eye, resulting in the eye being glued shut. These incidents can cause a great deal of panic for an individual. Skin-to-skin or skin-to-object adherence feels very strong and may seem like it will never become “unstuck”. When super glue is accidentally put into an eye, there is an immediate stinging pain with an almost instantaneous binding of the eyelids and/or the eye lashes. You might think this could lead to permanent vision loss, but it does not usually cause significant damage to the eye.
The following information is the initial first-aid steps to take, it ESSENTIAL to call the Missouri Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately with super glue exposures, every case needs individual attention.
- For superglue on the skin, DO NOT try to pry the bond apart, this can actually take off layers of skin. Instead, apply a warm compress to the glued area to soften the glue. Reassure any anxiety the person may be having; let them know you are calling the poison center and they will be fine.
- For superglue in the eye, remember that this burns and stings a lot at first. If the eyelids are not stuck together, rinse the eye with water. If the eyelids are stuck together, DO NOT try to force the eye open. DO NOT use acetone, alcohol or any chemical near the eye in attempts to dissolve the adhesive, and DO NOT attempt to release the adhesion by clipping eye lashes. Apply warm compresses over the eye, this may help soften the glue and loosen the bond of the glue.
- If someone has gotten superglue into the mouth, DO NOT try to pull off the glue. Rinse the mouth out with water. If there is glue stuck inside the mouth, vegetable oil or peanut butter can help soften the glue inside the oral cavity. If there is any glue stuck to the teeth or tongue, it will not be stuck for very long. The bond is loosened due to the warm, moist environment of the mouth.
As always, it is best to be safe and call the Missouri Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 if there has been an incident with super glue. The poison center is open all day, every day for poisoning emergencies and questions.