The same holds true for eye emergencies. Being prepared can prevent injury to the eyes and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Wear eye protection for all hazardous activities and sports, whether you are working on the job, at school, or at home. Having a rigid eye shield and commercial eye wash in a first aid kit can be helpful before engaging in activities where an eye injury could occur.
If a chemical or foreign liquid contacts the eye, immediately flush the eye with water or eye wash. To flush the eye, hold the eye under a faucet, shower, or water hose if possible or pour water into the eye using a clean container. Try to keep the eye open as wide as possible during flushing. Flush the eye continuously for at least 15 minutes. If there is a contact lens, flush the water over the lens instead of trying to take out the lens before flushing. The flushing of fluid may dislodge the lens. After 15 minutes of flushing, seek emergency medical care promptly. Do not bandage the eye.
If you feel like something flew into the eye, DO NOT rub the eye. Try to let tears wash the particle out or use a commercial eyewash to flush the eye. You may try lifting the upper eyelid outward or pull down on the lower eyelid while flushing. Do not attempt to remove any foreign object using tweezers or any other items or instruments. If the particle doesn’t wash out, see an eye doctor immediately. This is especially true if you think it may be a piece of metal that got in your eye.
If you get hit in the eye with something blunt (not sharp), apply cold compresses without pressure. If there is any blurry vision, change of vision, or the eye that was hit appears to stick out more than the other, seek out emergency medical care.
If you get hit in the eye with something sharp or are concerned about a cut or puncture of the eye or eyelid, DO NOT wash out the eye with water or any liquid. DO NOT try to remove any object that is stuck in the eye. If possible, cover the eye with a rigid shield or the bottom half of a paper cup without applying direct pressure to or having anything touch the eye. Secure the shield or cup to the brow above the eye and the cheekbone below the eye so that there is no pressure or contact to the eye. Then seek emergency medical care immediately.
Being prepared for an eye emergency increases the chance of having a better outcome. Please do not assume that any eye injury harmless. When in doubt, see an eye doctor promptly.
Author: Dr. Elizabeth Chiang