Eye Injuries: First Aid

What is an eye injury?

Eye injuries are fairly common in children. Small objects or liquids can get into the eye, causing your child some discomfort. In most cases, the injured eye will turn red and sting.

Signs and symptoms of eye injuries

Your child will usually complain of pain or discomfort in the eye. Your child’s eye may appear red, or they may have trouble keeping the eye open. Sometimes, small objects can slide under the eyelid. In most cases, however, you will be able to see the object in your child’s eye.

Causes

Common causes of eye injuries include:

  • a scratch from a finger-nail or other object poked at the eye
  • sand or dirt particles
  • a projectile that strikes, and may penetrate, the eye
  • flakes of metal, glass, stone, wood, or craft materials
  • chemical splashes

An eye injury can be a painful and scary experience. Encourage your child to sit down and remain calm. Any sudden movement of the eye may increase the risk of injury. Tell your child to look straight ahead or to close their eyelids. This may reduce the pain they are feeling. Hold your child’s head still while you apply a bandage over the injured eye.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the type of eye injury.

Smaller particles

Usually, small objects like sand or dirt can be flushed out of the eye using running water. Gently flush the injured eye with cool water for 10 minutes. Avoid splashing the water into your child’s face and the unaffected eye.

Persistent irritation

If your child complains of pain, but the injured eye appears to be clean, seek medical attention right away. Your child’s doctor can apply a special solution to the injured eye to check for scratches to the surface of the eye. To help with healing and avoid infection, your child’s doctor may prescribe medication.

Embedded objects

If your child has an embedded object in their eye, do not push the object further into the eye. This will increase the risk of permanent injury. Have your child close their eyelids. Gently cover the injured eye with an eye shield or clean gauze. Secure the gauze in place by lightly taping the edges down. Do not apply any pressure to the injured eye. If possible, cover both eyes to avoid any eye movement. Be sure to keep your child calm because covering both eyes may bother them. Go see a doctor right away.

Chemical splash

If your child gets a chemical or toxic substance in their eye, quickly flush the injured eye with running water for 10 minutes. Avoid splashing water into your child’s face and the unaffected eye. Cover the injured eye with a clean piece of gauze and go see a doctor right away. If possible, take a photo of the label or bring the substance in its container (or a sample with you so that it can be identified and tested by the doctor.

Prevention

Encourage your teen to wear proper eye protection when using tools and machinery, such as lawn mowers and trimmers, which may propel objects or debris toward their eyes. If your child plays sports like hockey or basketball, ask them to wear a protective visor or eye goggles. If your child’s hands have come into contact with a chemical or toxic substance, be sure they do not make any contact with their eyes.

You may want to bring eye protection when going to the beach.

Key points

  • Eye injuries are common in children.
  • Small objects like dust, dirt or chemicals can cause eye injuries.
  • Eye injuries can be frightening for children. Encourage your child to remain calm.
  • If an object is embedded in your child’s eye, cover the eye with clean gauze and go see a doctor right away.
  • If your child gets a chemical or toxic substance in their eye, flush the eye with cool running water for 10 minutes. After flushing the eye out, cover the injured eye with clean gauze and go see a doctor right away.
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Shawna Silver, MD, FRCPC, FAAP, PEng​​

6/13/2014




Notes: