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First Aid & Emergencies

Babysitting: Dealing With Eye Injuries

Most eye injuries are minor. Getting soap, sand, or dirt in the eye or under the eyelid are common ways a child’s eye can become irritated. Still, some eye injuries can be serious and require immediate medical attention.

Possible signs of a mild eye irritation are:

  • redness
  • stinging or burning
  • teary or watery eyes
  • swelling of the eyelids
  • discoloration around the eye

What to Do

If a child has signs of a mild eye irritation and you think there’s something in the eye, you can flush out the child’s eye to try to remove what’s in it. Before you start flushing a child’s eye, call the parents and ask if it’s OK.

Here’s what to do once you have the parents’ permission:

  • Wash your hands before rinsing the eye.
  • Gently flush the child’s eye with water as soon as possible: Tilt the child’s head over a sink with the affected eye pointed down.
  • Gently pull down the lower lid, then gently pour a steady stream of lukewarm water over the eye.
  • Flush the eye for up to 15 minutes. Every 5 minutes, check to see if the child is still feeling something in the eye.

Possible signs of a severe eye injury are:

  • the child has trouble seeing
  • something is stuck in the eye
  • the child has severe eye pain
  • blood in the eye
  • the child feels sick or vomits after hurting his or her eye

If you think the child has a severe eye injury, don’t flush or rinse the eye or try touching it. Call 911 immediately and then call the child’s parents.

Help prevent eye injuries by keeping chemicals, sharp objects, or other items that could cause serious eye injuries out of the reach of children.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: May 2013