As with any injury, it is very important to take action as soon as possible after an eye injury occurs. Prompt action can make a real difference to the extent of the injury. In the event that you or someone that you know suffers from an unexpected issue which affects the eye, you should follow the first aid steps detailed below, and then seek professional medical advice if required.
These first aid steps can help to lessen the extent of the injury.
For Foreign Bodies in the Eye
For a foreign body in the eye, you must first assess what is in the eye, and whether it has penetrated the eye itself. If the object is already embedded in the eye, you should not try to remove it, and you should instead seek urgent medical attention.
Whatever size the object is, the patient should avoid rubbing their eye. Before touching the eye, you should wash your hands with soap and water, and a saline solution if you have one to hand. If you are wearing contact lenses, remove the lens as this could trap the foreign body in your eye. Next you should try to flush the object out of the eye with an eye wash solution (often found in first aid kits) or clean, warm water. For the most effective flush, gently pour a steady stream of solution into the eye, whilst trying to keep your eye open. If you do not have access to clean water, you can try pulling the lower lid down, looking up, and making repeated blinking motions to lubricate the eye and flush out the trapped object. If you are still unable to get the item out, close the eye, lightly bandage it, and then see an eye doctor.
For Chemicals in the Eye
If you or a colleague gets any chemicals in their eye, it is important to treat the eye as soon as possible. Try not to rub the eye, because this could spread the chemical around. If the affected person is a contact lens wearer, take the lens out as soon as possible, because chemicals may become trapped between the lens and the cornea. Start to flush out the eye immediately with clean water or an eye irrigation solution. You should continue washing the eye out for at least 15 minutes, as this will dilute the chemical as much as possible and will wash away the majority of the chemical.
If you are employed in an environment where chemicals are regularly used, your employer should have an eye-wash station. If you do not have an eye wash station, get yourself into the shower (without taking the time to undress) and wash out the eye. Try to keep your eyelid open, even though it may feel uncomfortable. Do not bandage the eye as this can trap the chemical in. Even if you feel as though you have got all of the chemicals out, it is best to seek medical attention for an additional check-up.
Cuts in and around the Eye
For large cuts or puncture wounds to the eye, it is important to get to the doctor straight away. This is important if the eye is bleeding. Cover the affected area with a sterile dressing or a clean cloth, but do not apply pressure to the wound. Tiny cuts can heal quickly without attention, although it is best to avoid wearing make-up, using contact lenses or rubbing your eyes for a few days afterwards.
For injuries around the eyes, clean the wound, but do not use wound treatment creams or antiseptics, as these can damage your eyes. Do not scratch the area whilst it is healing.
For Physical Trauma
If you experience physical trauma (such as a blow to the eye) you should apply a cold compress, although you should avoid pressing it firmly against the affected area. Take an over the counter painkiller such as ibuprofen to reduce the swelling, being careful to follow the instructions on the specific brand that you buy. Most physical traumas will not require expert medical attention, although you should monitor the affected area over the next few days. If you start to experience vision issues, then you should seek medical attention.