Our eyes are very delicate and sensitive organs. Something as small as dust or pollen can irritate them causing allergies that create itchy, watery, red eyes. But what happens if something a little more dangerous gets into our eyes, like chemicals? Or perhaps even a sharp object? The reality is that at any moment or lapse in judgment, our eyes can be damaged permanently. Often times it’s the moments directly after the injury, that are most important. Below are some eye care steps you should take when treating an eye injury.

A common injury is getting chemicals into your eyes. If this happens, immediately run to the closest clean water source and flush out the chemical. Stick your eye under a faucet or even jump into the shower. Generally speaking, the amount of time your eye is exposed to the chemical is related to the severity of the injury. Flush your eyes for at least 30 minutes. Roll your eye around to flush out all areas. If you wear contacts, do not take them out unless they happen to come out during flushing. The contact could have acted as a shield and you don’t want to remove it until your eyes are clean. Only take out contacts if your eyes are rapidly swelling up. After flushing out your eye, identify the chemical and then bring the bottle with you to show your doctor. From there your doctor will treat you accordingly.

Some common use chemicals that cause eye burn are:

Ammonia, bleach, toilet bowl cleaner, drain cleaner, glass polish, oven cleaner, gasoline, vinegar, car battery fluid, products that remove rust, fireworks, pesticides and fertilizers.

When we least expect it a broken piece of a sharp object can get into our eye. If this happens, identify whether it is embedded into your eye. If it isn’t, try flushing it out. Do not use a cotton swab or tweezers to remove it. If your eye is still irritated don’t rub it. Smaller, hard to see fragments could be in your eye, so try flushing them again. If a sharp object or fragment is embedded in your eye, do not remove it yourself. Let a doctor be the one to remove it and prevent any further damage.

Knowing what to do in an emergency can be the difference between permanent damage and blindness. An eye exam from your doctor can help determine the appropriate eye care treatment.

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