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How to Handle an Eye Injury

First Aid

Most eye injuries are minor, like getting soap in the eye or a speck of dirt under the eyelid. Others, like those that happen during sports or from a fall, can be serious and need medical care right away.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Eye Injuries?

When kids have an eye injury, the eye may be red or the area around it may have redness, bleeding, or bruising. Other symptoms include eye stinging, burning, tearing, or watering. Kids may also be sensitive to light, have blurry vision, or have a swollen eyelid.

When Does an Eye Injury Need Medical Care?

Take your child for medical care right away if they have:

  • trouble seeing
  • something stuck in the eye
  • severe eye pain
  • blood in the eye
  • upset stomach or vomiting after an eye injury
  • a cut on the eye
  • pupils that don’t look equal or one isn’t round
  • an injury from being struck in the eye with a ball or other object

If your child’s eye was exposed to chemicals

First, rinse the eyes as soon as you can:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before touching the eye.
  • Remove contact lenses if your child wears them.
  • Flush the eye with water:
    • Tilt your child’s head to the side over a basin or sink with the injured eye on the bottom.
    • Gently pour a steady stream of room-temperature water over the eye for 15 minutes while your child blinks. If both eyes have gotten a chemical in them and your child can cooperate, you can rinse both eyes at the same time in the shower.

If you have a hard time getting your child to cooperate, know that even a few minutes of rinsing the eyes will help. After rinsing, get emergency medical care right away. You also can call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 or go online.

When Should I Call the Doctor About an Eye Injury?

Call the doctor if your child’s eye is red or if there’s redness, swelling, or pain around the eye or eyelid. Also call if your child has been rubbing the eye or if it’s bothered by light.

How Can I Treat Eye Injuries at Home?

You can treat some types of minor eye injuries at home.

If your child got dust or small debris in the eye or has a minor irritation:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before touching the eye.
  • Remove contact lenses if your child wears them.
  • Flush the eye with water as soon as possible:
    • Tilt your child’s head over a basin or sink with the injured eye pointed down.
    • Gently pull down the lower lid.
    • Gently pour a steady stream of lukewarm water over the eye while your child blinks.

Flush the eye for 5 minutes, then check to see if the dust or debris was flushed out. If it’s still there, flush the eye again for 5 minutes. You can repeat a third time if needed. If it’s still there after 15 minutes of flushing, call your doctor.

What Can Help Prevent Eye Injuries?

Eye injuries in kids can lead to serious vision problems, even blindness, so preventing them is important. Be sure that:

  • Kids who play sports wear protective goggles or unbreakable glasses as needed. 
  • Chemicals and other hazardous objects are out of the reach of children.