Your Child’s Eye Safety & What To Do In An Emergency

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Help Keep Your Child’s Eyes Safe

Your child’s eyes are their windows to the world so it is important that we keep them protected. Every year thousands of children under the age of 5 suffer from eye injuries.  These injuries can damage sight and even cause blindness.

Eye injuries can happen at home, at play or in the car.  They are the most common preventable cause of blindness.  Many eye injuries occur from the misuse of toys, forks, scissors, coat hangers, pens and pencils.  In addition eyes can be injured from falls from beds, against furniture or on stairs, contact with harmful household products (cleaners, paints, etc.), and automobile accidents.

It only takes a second for an injury to occur.  Therefore it is important that parents and caregivers take a proactive approach in order to prevent eye injuries.  These include:

  • Providing adequate supervision
  • Removing potential hazards
  • Putting locks on bathroom and kitchen cabinets and drawers
  • Placing safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs
  • Padding or cushioning sharp corners
  • Purchasing age-appropriate toys
  • Keeping children away from chemicals and sprays (detergents, paints, oven cleaners etc.)
  • Making sure your child is properly secured in baby carrier or car seat (Remember children under the age of 12 should always ride in the back seat)
  • Stocking a first aid kit with a foam cup and eyewash
  • Keeping children away from  fireworks
  • Protecting your child’s eyes against sunburn by having your child wear sunglasses and/or a hat, especially when near water, sand, and even snow as these surfaces are highly reflective and may result in sunburn more quickly
  • When in doubt, see a doctor immediately

If you notice that your child has any of the following, seek medical help immediately:

  • Noticeable pain or difficulty seeing
  • A torn or cut eyelid
  • One eye that does not move as well as the other
  • One eye sticks out
  • Unusual pupil size or shape
  • Blood in the clear part of the eye
  • Something stuck in the eye
  • Something under the eyelid that can not be easily removed

What to do in an Eye Emergency

Minor eye irritation – If you believe your child has something in his or her eye and after a few seconds of blinking it is not dislodged, gently pull down on the lower lid and up on the upper lid.  If the object is embedded do not remove it and take your child to the ER.  If the object is floating around try and gently touch it with a cotton swab or the edge of a clean cloth.  If you are still unable to remove the foreign body, than you will need to flush the eye with lukewarm water.  To flush your child’s eye tilt his or her head over the sink with the affected eye down.  Gently pull the lower lid down and encourage your child to open his or her eyes as wide as possible.  If you have a small child or infant it is best to have a second person that can hold the child’s eye open while you flush.  Gently pour a steady stream of lukewarm water from a pitcher over the eye.  Flush for about 15 minutes, stopping to check the eye after every 5 minutes to see if the foreign body has been flushed out.  If irritation continues after the foreign body has been flushed out consult a doctor.  If you can not remove the foreign body by flushing the eye, cover the eye with a small cup to prevent your child from rubbing it and seek medical assistance.

Chemical Exposure – If your child spills something in his or her eye or the eye comes in contact with chemicals immediately start flushing the eye with lukewarm water.  Hold the eye under a faucet or shower and pour water into the eye using a clean container.  Keep the eye open as wide as possible while flushing and do so for at least 15 minutes.  Have someone call for medical help, or the local poison control center.  Seek immediate medical treatment after flushing.

Black Eye – Apply a cold compress on the eye, making sure not to apply any pressure.   (Crushed ice in a plastic sandwich bag can be taped to the forehead to rest gently on the injured eye, just make sure it is covered with a towel to protect the delicate skin on the eyelid).  Do not use a chemical cold pack on or around they eye.  Apply a cold compress intermittently about 5 to 10 minutes on, and 10 to 15 minutes off.  If the child is in pain acetaminophen (Tylenol) should be given over aspirin or ibuprofen as those can increase bleeding.  At bedtime prop your child’s head up with an extra pillow and encourage him to sleep on the uninjured side of the face as pressure can increase the swelling.  Make sure to call you doctor to see if they want to further evaluate the eye.  If upon examining the eye you notice that the child is unable to open his/her eye or there is bleeding, seek medical care right away.

Punctured Eye or Eyelid – If anything is sticking out of the eye such as glass or metal, call for emergency medical help.  It is extremely important that you do not remove the object from the eye.  Instead, you should cover the affected eye with the bottom half of a foam cup and tape it in place.  Try to keep your child as calm as possible until help arrives.