How to Treat an Eye Injury

Four Methods:Treating a Small Foreign Object in the EyeTreating a Blow to the EyeTreating a Cut or Puncture to the EyeTreating Chemicals in the Eye

Accidents happen. A fleck of dust, a baseball thrown afoul, or a splash of gasoline — any of these can cause an eye injury. Knowing what to do in case of an eye injury could save someone's sight; however, there are many different kinds of eye injuries, and they each require a different kind of treatment.

Method 1
Treating a Small Foreign Object in the Eye

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    Use eyewash to flush the eye out. Eyewash is a liquid solution, usually of saline, that should be used to clean eyes in case something gets into them. Some workplaces, such as laboratories, have eyewash stations or kits available for workers in case of an accident.[1]
    • If you work somewhere with an eyewash kit or station, make sure you know where it is so that you can find it in an emergency.
    • Eyewash should be at a comfortable temperature for use. It shouldn’t be too hot or too cold.
    • If eyewash isn’t available, clean, pure water should be used.
    • Flush the eye for several minutes to make sure all debris is removed.
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    Lift the upper eyelid when dealing with larger debris. If there’s a fairly large particle in the eye, lift the upper eyelid over the lashes of the lower eyelid. The person should then blink several times. The person will start to tear up and the tears should flush the eye naturally.[2]
    • If possible, the person with the eye injury should do this for themselves, though it’s possible they may need help, depending on the nature of the injury.
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    Keep the eye closed. Once the debris has been flushed out of the eye, the person should keep their eye shut as much as possible. This protects the eye from further damage. Meanwhile, get the person to a hospital or an eye doctor immediately.[3]

Method 2
Treating a Blow to the Eye

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    Apply a cold compress. Do this as soon after the injury as possible. Hold the compress against the eye with gentle pressure. The compress should be cold, which will help reduce swelling if applied very soon after the injury.[4]
    • The compress can be made of a cold pack or a cloth filled with ice.
    • Put pressure near and around the eye, but not on the eyeball itself.
    • Leave the compress on until it’s no longer cold. Repeat this several times a day for a few days.
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    Look for blood. If the colored or white part of the eye has blood in it, the person should see an eye specialist immediately. This should happen even if the person isn’t in severe pain. Blood in the eye could lead to or be a sign of serious complications. The person should also seek immediate medical care if they have:[5]
    • Vision problems (such as double vision or blurry vision)
    • Severe pain
    • Bruising around both eyes
    • Bleeding from the nose
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    Apply heat compresses. After the swelling has stabilized (usually after a couple of days), heat will be more effective than ice. Create a compress with a hot water bottle, a heating pad, or a washcloth soaked in hot water.[6]
    • A heat compress should be warm to hot; however, don’t make it so hot that it is uncomfortable or will burn you.
    • Keep the compress on for as long as you like. A minimum of 10 minutes is good, but you can feel free to leave it on much longer than that.
    • Repeat this several times a day until the injury is healed.

Method 3
Treating a Cut or Puncture to the Eye

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    Seek immediate medical help. A puncture or cut in the eye can be very serious. Do everything you can to get the person to a hospital or eye specialist immediately. Do not attempt to treat a cut or puncture on your own.[7]
    • Call 911 if necessary.
    • Even if the cut or puncture seems minor, seek help. It may be worse than it looks or feels.
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    Avoid applying any kind of pressure. Pressure in this instance can make the injury worse. Try to cover the eye without putting any pressure on it or potentially pushing the object farther into it.[8]
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    Do not remove the object. It may be tempting and seem natural to try to remove the object from the eye, especially if the person is in a lot of pain; however, this can potentially do a lot of damage.[9]
    • Wait to remove the object until a medical professional can do so. They will be able to protect the eye from further damage or infection.
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    Avoid anti-inflammatory medications. The pain from an eye injury may lead the person to want to take over-the-counter pain killers; however, a lot of pain killers such as ibuprofen are anti-inflammatory, which thins blood and can increase bleeding. These can be dangerous when an eye has been punctured and should be avoided.[10]
    • If the person is in serious need of pain medication, ask a medical professional which medications would be safe to take.
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    Shield the eye until a doctor sees it. An eye that has been cut or punctured is particularly vulnerable to infection or to further damage. Keep the eye covered until the person is able to be seen by a doctor.[11]
    • Use something such as a light cloth, or even the person’s hand to keep the eye protected. Just make sure it’s clean and isn’t putting pressure on the eye.

Method 4
Treating Chemicals in the Eye

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    Flush the eye immediately with water. Use fresh, clean water to immediately dilute the chemicals and get them out of the eye as fast as possible. Ideally the person should be able to simply hold their eye under a faucet of running water for as long as necessary.[12]
    • There should be enough pressure to thoroughly flush the eye, but not so much as to cause painful pressure.
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    Continue running water on the eye for 15 minutes. This may seem excessive, but it’s important to make sure the eye is completely clean and free from chemicals. Depending on the type of chemical and how much the eye was exposed to, the eye may continue to burn or feel painful for a while.[13]
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    Seek emergency medical help. Once the immediate task of flushing the eye has been taken care of, get the person to a hospital or an eye specialist. This is important to make sure that no serious damage has been done and that flushing the eye was effective.[14]
    • Even if the person feels that flushing the eye was effective, it’s still advisable to seek a professional opinion, just to be safe.
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    Keep a moist compress on the eye. A moist compress will help keep an eye from drying out while waiting for medical care. It will also help keep it protected by covering the eye until a doctor can treat it.[15]


  • If time allows, wear gloves when administering first-aid.
  • Wear the correct eye protection relevant to your activity.
  • Be prepared for emergencies. Have sterile solutions and eyewash nearby.
  • Avoid unnecessary hazards.
  • Maintain a safe work or play environment.


  • Never attempt to remove a foreign object embedded in your eye. Professional assistance is required.
  • Never rub eyes after an injury.

Article Info

Categories: First Aid and Emergencies