When eye injuries occur, eye first aid can prevent blindness and vision loss. Eye injuries can be inconsequential or life-changing. Know what to do with each type of eye injury. Also learn how to prevent injuries to the eyes. Most eye injuries can be prevented with protective eyewear. You should keep certain items on-hand in case of eye injuries.
Exposure to Chemicals
We are around chemicals often. Soap, detergents, makeup, hair care products, cleansers, cooking liquids, pesticides, gasoline and even gasoline fumes are in or near our homes. At work and school, more chemicals threaten to damage our eyes.
Our eyelids automatically close when we see something dangerous coming near. Eyebrows also offer some protection when chemicals such as hair care products run down the forehead. However, an irritating or even caustic chemical accident can happen.
When a chemical enters the eye, our first impulse is to rub the eye. Resist the urge to rub! Remove contact lenses. Rinse the eye immediately with plenty of water or saline solution. No matter where you are, find the nearest clean water source: bottled water, garden hose, shower, faucet, or water fountain. If you are lucky, an eyewash station will be within easy reach. Flush continuously for 15 to 20 minutes. Call emergency services and get medical care as soon as possible. The doctor will need to know which chemical is in the eye, so bring the container or sample if you can. Do not bandage the eye while seeking a doctor.
Blunt Trauma to Eye
Are you a magnet for small airborne balls and hockey pucks? Did a vehicle airbag deploy in your face? Got socked in the eye? Then you may be familiar with blunt trauma to the eye.
Most of the time, you get a black eye. This is bruising around the eye. The eye may be swollen and puffy. Without pressing hard, apply a cold compress. If it is painful, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
However, the eye may be injured. If you have bruising, bleeding, changes in vision, or pain when looking around, go straight to an eye doctor. There may be serious damage to the eye. For example, bleeding between the cornea and iris needs treatment. Your iris may become inflamed (traumatic iritis). Macular edema (swelling) could set in. Also, the facial bones around the eye could be cracked.
Eye Bleeding (Subconjunctival Hemorrhage)
Bleeding in the eye looks very dramatic; however, subconjunctival hemorrhages are not usually serious. These red blotches and strips contrast sharply with the white color of the sclera. Sometimes the entire eyeball is red. Even a very minor injury, sneezing, or crying can result in subconjunctival hemorrhages. Pushing and straining from constipation, lifting, exercise, or childbirth can also cause eye bleeding.
This type of eye bleeding is painless and does not affect vision. The issue will clear on its own within a few weeks. Note: Do not confuse sclera redness with an eye infection such as pink eye (conjunctivitis). Infections will have uncomfortable symptoms such as irritation, watering, etc.
Foreign Particle in Eye
Dust, dirt, craft sparkles, confetti, and other foreign particles can find their way into an eye. We reflexively blink if we see a threat such as this. We will also be tempted to rub the eye. However, rubbing can lead to the particle penetrating the eye or scratching the cornea (corneal abrasion).
Instead, clean your hands. Pull down the upper eyelid over the top of the lower eyelid. The eyes will begin to tear. Blink many times. If the particle is still there, use an eyewash or any available clean water and try to rinse it out.
If all these steps fail, close your eye and place a light bandage over it. Go to a doctor immediately.
Object Embedded in Eye
Chips of wood, craft sparkles, metal splinters, nail heads, fish hooks, and sharp implements can become embedded in the eye. This is an emergency – call 911. Do not rub the eye or try to remove the object yourself. Only a doctor can safely remove objects embedded in the eye.
Tape a paper cup or eye shield over the eye if convenient. The damage may be minor or serious. Medical removal of all objects, including tiny shards, is crucial to recovery.
Corneal Abrasion (Scratches)
Scratches on the cornea can be caused by objects like fingernails, tree branches, and torn contact lenses. Rubbing when a foreign particle or object is in the eye can also lead to corneal abrasions. Symptoms include discomfort, red eyes, and photophobia (sensitivity to light).
If something scratches your eye, seek medical care immediately. Scratches open your eye to infections. The object that scratched you likely harbored fungi or bacteria that can quickly grow. Wearing an eye patch creates a warm, dark environment, perfect for bacterial growth. Since this condition can rapidly lead to blindness, go to your eye doctor, urgent care center, or emergency room.
Curling irons, hot ash and cinders, wood burning craft tools, fireworks, sparklers, and other heat sources can cause eye burns. If such accidents happen, flush with water or saline solution for 15 minutes. See medical care if pain or signs of infection appear.
The sun can also burn the cornea. A day on the water or snow without sunglasses can cause flash corneal burns. If caused by snow, it may be called snow blindness. So can a solar eclipse and a welder’s arc. Symptoms may be delayed, and include eye irritation, burning eye pain and possibly vision loss or blindness. The cornea is the clear tissue at the front of the eye. While it is designed to protect the rest of the eye’s delicate tissues, sun and ultraviolet light can cause harm. If you suspect a flash burn, consult a doctor.
Lasers can damage the retina, depending on strength, distance and exposure time. Never point a laser at someone’s face. Even paintball laser sights could cause harm.
How to Prevent Eye Injuries
A little caution and some inexpensive equipment can prevent most eye injuries.
The primary way to prevent eye injuries is to use protective eyewear. Wear plastic safety goggles or protective glasses whenever you are at risk of eye injuries. Risky activities include most sports, construction, certain factory and industrial situations, home improvements, mowing grass or blowing snow, handling chemicals, dusting, cleaning with chemicals, etc.
- Prescription glasses may offer a tiny amount of protection, but do not count on them. Slip protective glasses over top of your prescription glasses. These plastic glasses provide more coverage and are cheaper to replace, should an accident occur.
- Children and adults who play sports must wear protective eyewear if needed, even during practice. Helmets with face protectors, masks, and sports goggles save many eyes. Prescription sports goggles can be helpful. Paintball players must wear protection against projectiles and laser sights.
- Even casual skiers and snowboarders need UV-protective ski goggles to prevent flash blindness and damage from ice particles and wind. In a pinch, prepare an eye mask with horizontal slits.
Other tips for preventing eye injuries include:
- Never place your face near the gas nozzle when fueling a vehicle.
- At work, carefully follow all safety guidelines without exception. One slip up is all it takes to have a permanent injury.
- Always wear sunglasses when outdoors in the sun.
- Use caution when handling chemicals at home or work.
- When heating cooking oil, keep the temperature below smoking point. Suddenly adding very cold or wet food to hot oil causes dangerous splashes. Wear protective eyewear when deep frying a turkey or other large food.
- View a solar eclipse only while wearing special glasses. Sunglasses are not enough.
- In a vehicle that has airbags, wear your seatbelt and sit at least 10″ from the steering wheel.
- If you see the red of a laser, look away or cover your eyes. If you are near lasers, wear protective eyewear.
- Do not stare into a microwave while it is warming food or drinks. Look away.
- Chill champaign to under 46 degrees before popping the cork. Step out of the room and point the bottle away from your face.
- Only mature children should use wood burning kits and be allowed to manage campfires, etc. Supervise them anyway.
Be Ready for Eye Injury Treatment
Eye injuries can occur at any time. Keep the following supplies on hand.
- Several pairs of protective eyewear. Goggles and glasses should have side protection and can slide over prescription glasses.
- A large bottle of saline solution in the first aid kit for rinsing.
- Natural Eye Care’s Eye Trauma Protocol, recommended for bruises or mild injuries due to trauma: Arnica Montana 200CK 80 homeopathic; buffered Vitamin C; Advanced Eye and Vision Support Formula
- Homeopathic: Aconite (relieves the pain and inflammation in an eye injury, usually given as the first line of defense as soon as the injury or trauma has occurred – then see a doctor). Hypericum (used for an eye injury, excessively painful eyes, and eye pain after removal of a foreign object from the eye.)