In general, any direct injury to the eye – cut or puncture, blow with a ball or fist, or debris in the eye – should have immediate medical attention if there is significant pain, and/or loss of vision. If pain is minor and no serious injury is obvious, contact the doctor to determine whether your child should be seen in an emergency facility or the doctor’s office.
- Until it is seen by a doctor, keep the eye closed. This is a natural response to eye injury and helps reduce discomfort.
- If the eye has been penetrated or cut open, take the child directly to the emergency room. If there is fluid oozing from the eye, transfer the child lying flat on his back so additional fluid will not escape.
- Hold a simple shield, such as a paper cup, over the eye to protect it but don’t exert any pressure on the eye.
Chemicals in the Eye
Take prompt action whenever any chemical has splashed into the eye.
Although many materials will cause only minor irritation, some can result in serious injury or blindness if not attended to immediately. Start immediate and continued flushing with lukewarm water. A gentle flow of water should run into the affected eye(s). Hold the child under a tap or hose or carefully pour water from a glass or pitcher into the eye(s) with the child lying down. If only one eye is involved, hold the child on her side with the affected eye down so none of the chemical can accidentally flow into the other eye. You will probably need to have another adult hold the eye open while you pour the water. Use the following formula guidelines to determine how long to irrigate the eye:
- alkaline materials: 20 minutes
- acids: 10 minutes
- less reactive chemicals: 5 minutes
After the eye(s) has been irrigated, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Alkaline materials can penetrate deeply and cause serious damage. Examples of alkaline materials are drain cleaners, oven cleaners, and bleach. Look for these words on product labels:
- sodium hydroxide
- potassium hydroxide
- calcium oxide
- trisodium phosphate
- wood ash
Acids tend to cause more localized tissue damage but can still cause significant injury. Examples of acids are automobile battery fluid, toilet bowl cleaners, and swimming pool acid. Look for these words on product labels:
- sulfuric acid
- hydrochloric acid
- phosphoric acid
- hydrofluoric acid
- oxalic acid
Less dangerous chemicals should be washed out of the eye also. Most of these materials will cause only mild redness, stinging, and temporary swelling involving the conjunctiva (the thin, clear tissue lining the white surface of the eyeball and inner surfaces of the eyelid). Irrigation will lessen the irritation and probably prevent the child from rubbing the eye and aggravating the soreness. Examples of less dangerous chemicals include food, alcohol, and household soaps.