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Trick of the Trade: Eye pH


eye ph paper

Your patient presents with an ocular burn after accidentally splashing an industrial acid on his face. You, however, can not seem to find the ever elusive eye pH paper to track her initial and serial pH’s during copious ocular irrigation. Now what?


Trick of the Trade:
Use a urine dipstick reagent strip to check eye pH


UrineDipstick pH white balance SM

  1. Cut the dipstick strip so that pH is the last box.
  2. Gently touch the strip to the patient’s eye.


  • Be careful of the sharp edges on the trimmed dipstick strip when touching the patient’s eye.
  • Note that a urine dipstick can only detect a pH range of 5-8.5. Anything outside these ranges will require the eye pH paper, which can detect a range of 1-14.



Although no literature could be found on this in PubMed, it seems to be a fairly accepted practice:

  1. University of Ottawa Primary Care Ophthalmology website on eye irrigation
  2. Royal Children’s Hospital of Melbourne website on pediatric eye injuries


Credit for the trick goes to Dr. Eugene Izsak (Director Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Promedica Toledo Children’s Hospital; Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine, University of Toledo College of Medicine)

Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Editor-in-Chief
Academy Endowed Chair of EM Education
Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD
Michelle Lin, MD

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