Did you know that every year over 2.5 million eye injuries occur in the United States resulting in over 50,000 people permanently losing all or part of their vision? According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the annual costs related to eye injuries cost more $1.3 billion. While 800,000 of those injuries occur on the job, which leaves some 1.3 million injuries that happen at home. Eye injuries can occur from a variety of common sources, such as flying debris from lawn mowers or trimmers, or splashes from household cleaners, paints or solvents. Most eye injuries can be prevented by wearing eye protection.
Knowing what to do for an eye emergency can save valuable time and possibly prevent vision loss. Prevent Blindness America offers a free “First Aid for Eye Emergencies” sticker in both English and Spanish that can be placed on the inside of a medicine cabinet. Basic eye injury first aid instructions include:
Chemical Burns to the Eye
- Immediately flush the eye with water or any other drinkable liquid. Hold the eye under a faucet or shower, or pour water into the eye using a clean container. Keep the eye open and as wide as possible while flushing. Continue flushing for at least 15 minutes.
- DO NOT use an eyecup. DO NOT bandage the eye.
- If a contact lens is in the eye, begin flushing over the lens immediately. This may wash away the lens.
- Seek immediate medical treatment after flushing.
Specks in the Eye
- DO NOT rub the eye.
- Try to let tears wash the speck out or use an eyewash.
- Try lifting the upper eyelid outward and down over the lower lid.
- If the speck does not wash out, keep the eye closed, bandage it lightly, and see a doctor.
Blows to the Eye
- Apply a cold compress without putting pressure on the eye. Crushed ice in a plastic bag can be taped to the forehead to rest gently on the injured eye.
- In cases of pain, reduced vision, or discoloration (black eye), seek emergency medical care. Any of these symptoms could mean internal eye damage.
Cuts and Punctures of the Eye or Eyelid
- DO NOT wash out the eye with water or any other liquid.
- DO NOT try to remove an object that is stuck in the eye.
- Cover the eye with a rigid shield without applying pressure. The bottom half of a paper cup can be used.
- See a doctor at once.
For more information on how to protect the eyes at home, eye protection recommendations, or to request the First Aid for Eye Emergencies sticker, call Prevent Blindness America at (800) 331-2020 or visit their website preventblindness.org.