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Eye fright: How to deal with eye injuries

How to treat an eye injury - fleximed first aid training

Eyes are the most sensitive part of our body and some poets say the window to the soul, most people will say they are the window to pain.

Nobody wants to lose their sight, and this is the first thing that springs into our mind when we get any kind of eye problem. So when do we need to get medical help and when can we manage on our own?


Eye injuries can occur in many settings, including at home, at work or when playing sports.

Common types of eye injury include:

  • Blows to the eye – such as being hit by a fist, elbow or ball

  • Scratches and abrasions – such as from fingernails or tree branches

  • Foreign bodies – such as small pieces of grit, wood or metal getting in the eye

  • Penetrating or cutting injuries – such as cuts from glass or projectiles flung from tools, especially when hammering or using power tools

  • Chemical burns – such as exposure to household cleaning products

  • Radiation exposure – such as exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or sun lamps

Wearing contact lenses incorrectly can also injure your eyes, particularly if they're dirty, don't fit properly or have been worn for too long.

What to do

Minor irritation or injury to the front of the eye usually doesn't require medical treatment and should clear up within 24 hours.

If you experience discomfort, painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen may help.

Don't touch or rub your eye, apply pressure to it or wear contact lenses until it's fully healed to prevent further damage.

See your GP or optician if you have any concerns about your injury or if it's not better within 24 hours.



Flushing your eye

If you have loose particles in your eye or your eye has been exposed to chemicals, flush it out with an eyewash or plenty of clean water for at least 10 to 15 minutes. If you wear contact lenses, remember to remove them before flushing the eye.

You can flush your eyes in the following ways:

  • Sit down and slant your head so the injured eye is lower than the unaffected eye,

ideally over a bath or sink, then use a glass or cupped hand to repeatedly pour water across the eye from the bridge of the nose.

  • If both eyes are affected, tilt your head back, keeping it level, and use a glass or cupped hand to repeatedly pour water across both eyes from the bridge of the nose.

  • If you have access to a shower, aim a gentle stream of warm water at your forehead or just above the affected eye while holding the affected eye open.

  • If you're working outside, you can use a garden hose to rinse your eye using a very low flow setting.

All eye injuries caused by chemical exposure should be seen by an eye doctor or nurse as soon as possible after flushing. You should also seek immediate medical advice if there are still any foreign bodies in the eye after flushing it.


Don't try to remove any objects embedded or stuck in the eye yourself, as this can damage the eye further. These should only be removed by an eye expert.

When to seek immediate medical advice

You should go immediately to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department if you have:

  • Persistent or severe eye pain

  • Foreign bodies that can't be washed out

  • Decreased or double vision

  • Flashing lights, spots, halos or shadows in your field of vision

  • Blood visible in your eye

  • An irregularly shaped pupil (the black dot at the centre of the eye)

  • Pain when exposed to bright light

  • Deep cuts around your eye

  • Your eye is sticking out of your eye socket

You should also go to A&E if your injury was caused by an object flying at speed – for example, a projectile flung from an angle grinder; a very sharp object, such as glass or a knife; or chemical exposure; (For chemicals remember to flush your eye for at least 10 to 15 minutes before going).

To sum everything up, if in doubt get it checked out by your DR or A&E, remember DO NOT DRIVE IF YOUR VISION IS AFFECTED, request help from friends or family or if needed dial 999.

How to deal with eye injuries - fleximed first aid training


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