Eye injuries are the most common preventable cause of blindness. While many minor
eye irritations can be treated at home by flushing the eye with water, more serious
injuries need medical attention. So when in doubt, err on the side of caution and
call your doctor for help.
What to Do:
(sand, dirt, and other foreign bodies on the eye surface)
Wash your hands thoroughly before touching the eyelids to examine or flush the
Do not touch, press, or rub the eye itself, and do whatever you
can to keep your child from touching it (a baby can be swaddled to prevent this).
Do not try to remove any foreign body except by flushing. Other
methods can scratch the surface of the eye, especially the cornea.
Tilt your child's head over a basin or sink with the affected eye down and gently
pull down the lower lid. Encourage your child to open the eyes as wide as possible.
For an infant or small child, it's helpful to have a second person hold the child's
eyes open while you flush.
Gently pour a steady stream of lukewarm water (do not heat the
water) from a pitcher or faucet over the eye.
Flush for up to 15 minutes, checking the eye every 5 minutes to see if the foreign
body has been flushed out.
Because a particle can scratch
the cornea and cause an infection, the eye should be examined by a doctor if irritation
continues after flushing.
A foreign body that remains after flushing probably will require removal
by a trained medical professional.
Embedded Foreign Body
(an object penetrates or enters the globe of the eye)
If an object, such as a piece of glass or metal, is sticking out of the eye, take
the following steps:
Cover the affected eye with a small cup taped in place. The point is to keep all
pressure off the eye.
Keep your child (and yourself) as calm and comfortable as possible until help
Many chemicals, even those found around the house, can damage an eye. If your
child gets a chemical in the eye and you know what it is, look on the product's container
for an emergency number to call for instructions.
Flush the eye (see Routine Irritations) immediately with lukewarm water for 15
to 30 minutes. If both eyes are affected, flush them in the shower.
Call for emergency medical help.
Call your local poison control center for specific instructions.
Be prepared to give the exact name of the chemical, if you have it. However, do not
delay flushing the eye first.
Black Eyes and Blunt Injuries
A black eye
is often a minor injury. But this bruising also can be the result of a significant
eye injury or head trauma. A visit to the doctor or an eye specialist might be needed
to rule out serious injury, particularly if you're not sure what caused the black
For a black eye:
Apply cold compresses intermittently: 5 to 10 minutes on, 10 to 15 minutes off.
If you use ice, make sure it's covered with a towel or sock to protect the delicate
skin on the eyelid.
Use cold compresses for 24 to 48 hours, then switch to applying warm compresses
intermittently. This will help the body reabsorb the leakage of blood and may help
If the child is in pain, give acetaminophen — not aspirin
or ibuprofen, which can increase bleeding.
Prop the child's head with an extra pillow at night, and encourage him or her
to sleep on the uninjured side of the face (pressure can increase swelling).
Call your doctor, who may recommend an in-depth evaluation to rule out damage
to the eye. Call immediately if you see any of these problems:
drainage from the eye
lasting eye pain
any changes in vision
any visible abnormality of the eyeball
visible bleeding on the white part (sclera) of the eye, especially near the cornea
If the injury happened during one of your child's routine activities, such as a
sport, follow up
by investing in an ounce of prevention — protective goggles or unbreakable glasses
are vitally important.