Whether at work or at home, accidents can happen. When the accident involves the eyes, it’s important to know some basic first aid. The eye is a delicate structure easily damaged by something as small as a piece of grit.
Proper treatment following an eye injury can prevent the loss of sight. The following guide to first aid for eye injuries will help you to assist someone who has sustained an eye injury until they can seek medical attention.
Signs and Symptoms
The following are signs of an eye injury. Not all symptoms may be present in all cases.
- pain in or behind the eye
- spasm of the eyelids
- a continuous flow of tears from one eye
- reduced or altered vision or even loss of sight
- blood visible in the eye or bleeding around the eye
Minor Eye Injuries
Removing a foreign body
- Tell the patient not to rub the eye.
- Check to see if the foreign material is visible on the white part of the eye. If the foreign object cannot be seen clearly or is over the coloured part of the eye, don’t try to remove it.
- Ask the patient to blink several times to try to remove the foreign body by washing it out with tears.
If the object is not removed after several attempts, stop trying. There is a risk of scratching the surface of the eye and causing scarring.
A foreign body can also be removed by gently flushing the affected eye, as follows:
- Tilt the patient’s head to the injured side
- Starting from the nose end, pour a stream of water from a clean jug across the injured eye into a bowl or basin.
- If this doesn’t work, cover the eye with a clean pad and take the patient to a doctor.
Snow blindness / welder’s flash
The patient may have severe pain in the eyes with a gritty feeling. The eyes may be sensitive to light and watery and/or red-looking. Bathe the patient’s eyes with cool water, cover the eyes and seek medical attention.
Serious Eye Injuries
Blows to the Eye
The resulting pressure from a heavy blow to the eye can cause blurred or double vision or even blindness.
To reduce pain and prevent swelling, apply an ice cold compress immediately for about 15 minutes. A black eye or blurred vision could mean that there’s internal eye damage. See an ophthalmologist immediately.
Cuts to the Eye and Eyelid
In the case of cuts to the eye or eyelid, don’t attempt to wash the eye or remove an object and never apply pressure. Tell the patient not to rub the eye. Lightly bandage the eye and seek immediate medical attention.
A chemical splash in the eye needs prompt first aid and medical care. Using your fingers to keep the eye open as wide as possible, flush the eye with clean water gently and continuously for at least 15 minutes. Tell the patient to roll the eyeball around as much as possible. Don’t use an eye cup and don’t bandage the eye. Then seek medical help as soon as possible.