The eyes are one of the most important parts of our body, and sometimes lightning fast action is required to prevent serious and long-term damage when the worst occurs.
Fortunately, many minor eye injuries can be treated at home by flushing the eye with lukewarm water. By doing this flushing, it will remove any small grit or dust in the eye.
If there is a minor corneal abrasion, it will often heal itself. However, it is important to rest the eye while it is healing.
Damaging your eye is a stressful and upsetting experience, but knowing a few first aid tips will make sure your eyes stay healthy after any mishaps.
The most common needs for treatment include:
- Chemical exposure from household products
- Corneal abrasions caused by scratches
- Injury by impact
- Cuts on the surrounding eye membrane
- Foreign objects in the eye
- Blunt force trauma
Your First Aid Kit Essentials for Eye Trauma
The most important components of your eye care first aid kit are:
- Small volumes of unpreserved saline fluid for irrigation, known as eye wash
- Dry eye ointment
- Cotton swabs
- Sterile eye pads
- Cool packs
- Warm compresses
Treatment for foreign object in eye
The first thing you must remember is not to rub your eyes!
If the foreign object is in the front of your eye or under the lower lid, try flushing it out with some saline solution.
Should this not be successful, gently lift the upper eye lid over the lower lid, then, with the upper lid resting on the lower lid, sweep it upwards.
If the particle is still there, or trapped under your upper lid, try inverting it (flipping it inside-out). This can be done by placing the handle of a cotton bud over the crease in the middle of your upper eye lid and, looking down, roll the lid over the cotton bud.
Use some saline solution to rinse away the offending particle.
Should you not feel comfortable inverting the eye lid yourself, seek medical attention. Occasionally, you may feel as if the particle is still there, despite it having been removed. This is caused by the cornea or inside of the lid has been scratched, and if the pain increases or a discharge develops, you should see a doctor immediately.
Treatment for chemical in the eye
Firstly, flush the eye with saline solution or water if solution is not available.
If the identity of the chemical is unknown, continue to flush the eye with solution or water for 15 minutes and seek medical advice. This is because alkaline or basic liquids are easily absorbed by the tissues in the eye and are harder to flush out and neutralise than acidic solutions (which are often neutralized by water).
It is recommended that even if you are feeling fine, you should still consult a medical professional to check for any damage to your eye.
Dry eye drops (also known as artificial tears) can be used to alleviate dry or irritated sensations.
If pain, blurred vision or sensitivity to bright light occurs, immediate medical advice should be sought.
Once you have removed the foreign object causing the abrasion, treat the eye with dry eye drops. It is important to keep the eye moist.
If you experience pain when moving your eye, you can keep the eye closed by placing a pad of gauze over it and taping it in place using surgical adhesive tape. Do not keep the eye closed for more than 4 hours.
If the abrasion was caused by a piece of metal, the pain continues, or you experience blurred vision, seek immediate medical attention.
If you suspect an infection, get an appointment with your GP as soon as possible, so that they can refer you to an eye specialist to diagnose the infection.
Usually, infections are caused by transfer from your finger to your eye. Sometimes they are also caused by allergies. The presence of a particle which you are allergic to causes the body to create an immune response, resulting in itchy, red eyes, with tearing, but no discharge.
Dry eye drops can alleviate the symptoms by flushing out the particle from your eye. Alternatively, use a cool compress to relieve itching and redness. Infections can also be caused by bacteria, which are usually characterised by a yellow to green discharge, sometimes redness and dryness.
The best and quickest way to treat this type of infection is to seek the advice of your GP or eye specialist, who will prescribe you antibacterial eye drops. Complete the course of antibiotics, following your doctor’s instructions, for the best chances of successful treatment.
Treatment of blunt trauma to eye
A more serious form of blunt trauma to the eye is caused by a force to the eye itself. Immediate medical attention should be sought.
In the meantime, you should check for blurred or double vision, pain behind or inside the eye, black spots in your vision, the pupil being larger or smaller than the uninjured one, or loss of peripheral or normal sight.
A black eye is also caused by trauma to the eye, but is the result of trauma to the tissue around the eye, causing blood vessels to break and bruising to occur. Applying a cold compress (ice pack covered in a damp cloth, or a clean wet wash cloth) can reduce swelling and bruising, or even prevent a black eye occurring. If you detect a pooling of blood behind the cornea, but in front of the iris, it is highly likely a blood vessel inside the eye has been broken, and immediate medical attention should be sought.
These tips are basic and are a guide only. If you are uncertain, or in any pain the day following an injury to your eye, do not hesitate to seek immediate medical help. Remember, quick actions can save your eye sight!