Skip to main content

Vanderbilt experts urge caution when using glow sticks

Oct. 27, 2022, 8:32 AM

Vanderbilt experts say there are potential hazards associated with using glow sticks.
Vanderbilt experts say there are potential hazards associated with using glow sticks. (iStock image)

by Jessica Pasley

With Halloween creeping closer and fall activities in full swing, glow sticks are a popular tool to help light the night.

Pediatricians at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt urge everyone to use caution when using the popular glow-in-the-dark sticks and accessories.

“Glow sticks offer a fun and creative way to illuminate the night and add some fun to costumes, allowing trick-or-treaters to be more visible,” said Claci Ayers, MD, Pediatric Emergency Medicine fellow at Monroe Carell. “But glow sticks need to be properly handled. There are a few hazards associated with their use.”

Glow sticks come in many sizes, shapes and colors. Snapping a glow stick activates the agents inside to create a chemical reaction that emits energy in the form of light called chemiluminescence.

But what if the cracking is too vigorous and causes the glow stick to leak or someone ingests the liquid from inside?

“The solvent inside the glow sticks can irritate the skin and eyes,” Ayers said. “Typically, people do not have complications from it and should immediately wash the skin or flush the eye. If the irritation lasts more than 15 minutes, it is best to seek the help of your primary care provider or call your local poison control center,” she said.

Another hazard — glass shards. They create the cracking sound heard when activating the stick.

“There are not as many glass shards in these items today as in the past, but people need to be aware that some contain slivers. Sometimes a child may get aggressive with the stick or apply too much pressure when activating it and cause a break and a leak,” Ayers said.

“It’s important that children are closely supervised and only use the glow sticks for the purposes they are intended.”

The Tennessee Poison Control hotline is 1-800-222-1222.

Recent Stories from VUMC News and Communications Publications

Vanderbilt Medicine
VUMC Voice