First aid for eye injuries

A good general rule in treating eye injuries is to get professional care, fast!
However, first-aid treatment also is important.

The most common eye accident calling for first aid is something in the eye,
such as a particle of dust, wood, glass, metal, concrete or any other hard
substance. Chemical particles, vapor and radiant energy are other causes of eye

The natural impulse is to rub the eye. Don't! That can be the worst thing do.
Rubbing a hard, sharp particle against the delicate tissues that line the
inside of the eye can cause more damage.

Never rub the eye. Too often this will drive a foreign body deeper into the
tissues and make removal difficult.

Never examine an eye for a foreign body until you have washed your hands
thoroughly. Otherwise, dirt might enter the eye and make the injury worse.

Never be rough; this may aggravate the injury to the eyeball.

Never remove a foreign body with a toothpick, match, knife blade, magnet or any
other instrument.

Always send the patient to a physician if the foreign body is embedded in the
eye. These measures can be taken and are often effective in removing a foreign
body that is not actually embedded.

1. Pull down the lower eyelid and see if the body lies on the surface of the
lid's lining membrane. If it does, it should be lifted off gently with a cotton
swab or other applicator moistened with water. (Never use dry cotton around an

2. Grasp the lashes of the upper lid gently between the thumb and forefinger,
have the patient look upward and pull the upper eyelid forward and downward
over the lower eyelid. A foreign body on the lining membrane of the upper lid
can often be dislodged and swept away by the tears.

3. Flush the eye out with clean water. This can be done with a small bulb
syringe or with an eyedropper. Never, under any circumstances, should oil of
any kind be used in first-aid treatment.
If the foreign body is still present or embedded in the eyeball, send the
patient promptly to a physician. A retained foreign body may cause tissue
changes and scars to develop; in some cases, this may cause loss of sight.
Remember, inflammation in one eye may set up sympathetic inflammation in the
In case of a serious injury, a pad of clean cloth gauze or a sterile oval eye
pad should be applied to the eye. Cover both eyes while the accident victim is
en route to the physician's office.

4. If the accident victim is in deep shock or a coma, close the eyelids to
prevent visual damage that might result from drying of the eyeballs. If the
lids fail to stay closed, they should be covered with a gauze pad or held shut
with adhesive tape.

What to do in case of other injuries to the eyelids

The best advice is to take the victim to a doctor immediately. Damage to the
lids can result from non-expert care. The only recommended first-aid treatment
is the application of a clean cloth or gauze pad, or a sterile oval eye pad,
held in place with a firm bandage.

What to do in case of burn

Heat, chemicals, gases or chemical particles may cause burns to the eye. When
an open flame approaches the eyes, the lids usually close involuntarily, fast
enough so that only the lids are affected. Burns of the eyelid, however, can be
serious; they may damage the tear ducts and cause scar tissue.

Chemicals, such as acids, alkalis, anhydrides and detergents, may spurt into
the eyes before the lids can close, causing severe damage.

Immediately treat burns of the lids or eyes by flushing with clean water. Get
large quantities of water gently into the eyes as quickly as possible.

The following is one flushing method:

Tilt the patient's head toward the injured side and then pour clean water
slowly into the eye while you hold the lid open. Use an ordinary glass or cup
or if available, a small funnel to direct the stream. The liquid should be
poured into the inner corner of the eye and allowed to run over the eyeball and
under the lid for at least 10 minutes; make sure all parts of the eye, corners
and under the lid are flushed thoroughly. After flushing, a simple patch -
preferably, a sterile oval pad - should be placed over the eye, or eyes, and
the patient should be taken quickly to an eye physician. Use no medication in
first-aid treatment.

Further Information

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