Many first aid courses focus on teaching how to treat cuts and lacerations and perform CPR, but they can overlook eye-related emergency care. Since nearly two million emergency room visits stem from eye injuries or conditions each year, the lack of emphasis on eye care represents a critical gap in first aid trainees’ knowledge—both for themselves and for others. If you want to learn more so that you can be ready to help provide emergency care for someone afflicted by an eye injury, take a look at these tips on eye-related first aid!
Of course, first aid treatments for the eyes vary widely depending on the nature of the injury, but there are several universal principles to follow. The first step of any first aid procedure is to call 911 immediately so the victim can receive professional medical attention. If you need to provide treatment while the ambulance is on its way, however, wash your hands—ideally with soap and water—to prevent further contamination or infection. Additionally, never perform first aid without making sure that the area is safe, since you’ll be of no use to the victim if you get hurt, too.
Bleeding or Lacerations
To treat someone who’s eye is bleeding, perhaps as the result of a puncture wound or direct trauma, cover the eye with a clean cloth or an eye shield and head to the hospital as soon as possible. Be careful not to apply pressure to the eyeball, and if there is an object embedded in the eye, don’t try to remove it.
Without protective eyewear, it can be surprisingly easy for workplace or household chemicals to splash into the eye. When this happens, if the affected person uses contact lenses, immediately remove them: contacts can trap the chemicals and hold them against the eye, which can cause pain and potentially serious, permanent damage. Then, flush the affected eyes with cool water for about 15 minutes. As a final step, before you go to the hospital, take the chemical’s container so that doctors can identify it and provide treatment accordingly.
Don’t attempt to dislodge foreign objects by rubbing the eyes because this can cause further irritation. Instead, flush the eye with water, and gently pull the top eyelid over the upper portion of the lower eyelid to prompt tearing that can expel the foreign object. If you can see the object and it is not embedded in the eye, you can attempt to remove it with a washcloth, but if you are unable to get it out, then don’t try to force it and simply seek medical attention.