Girl with closed eyes “You’ll poke your eye out!” is a sentence uttered by thousands of parents as they caution their children against potentially eye-harming activities. Childhood is a prime time for the accidents that can lead to eye injuries.

Tips for preventing eye injuries

It’s far easier to prevent an eye injury than to treat one, so know what’s most likely to hurt your child, and do all you can to steer him clear of potentially dangerous situations. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, leading causes of eye injuries in kids include:

  • Household chemicals
  • Sports accidents
  • Consumer fireworks
  • Inappropriate toys and games
  • Toys used without adequate supervision

But sometimes, despite your best efforts, your child will hurt his eyes. Depending on what caused the injury, here's what to do:

Debris, dirt or sand in the eye

Don’t rub the eye, which can scratch the cornea. Instead, flush it out with eyewash. This can be sterile saline solution, such as the kind used by those who wear contact lenses, or tepid (never hot) tap water. To flush the eye, pull the lower lid down gently while the child (or another helper) keeps the upper lid as open as possible. Gently pour the liquid over the eye. Flush for 15 minutes, checking periodically to see if the foreign particle has washed out.

Object embedded in the eye

If something has penetrated the eye, don’t try to remove it yourself. Tape a paper cup over the eye to protect it while you seek immediate medical attention.

Chemical in the eye

Immediately flush out the eye. Check the container, if possible, for instructions. Then call your child’s healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center for advice at 1-800-222-1222.

Direct blow to the eye, bruises/contusions (black eyes)

Place an ice pack on the area for 20 minutes each hour to help lessen the swelling. Continue this method for four hours. Remember not to press down on the eye, but to gently place the ice pack on the area. If there is still swelling or bruising after two days, use a warm cloth on the area for 10 minutes, three times a day.

You can give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®) for the pain if necessary. Please consult your pediatrician about correct doses for your child's age.

If you notice changes such as increased redness, drainage, eye pain, vision changes or visible bleeding on the white part of the eye, contact your child's healthcare provider immediately.

Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello Jr., MD

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