Most substances you get in your eyes that make your eyes
burn will not cause serious eye problems. The only treatment needed for items
such as soaps, shampoos, and perfumes that get in the eyes is to immediately
flush the eyes with water. After flushing, the eyes may be slightly painful and
irritated, but these symptoms should go away quickly.
Chemical burns can happen if a solid
or liquid chemical or chemical fumes get into the eye. Many substances will not
cause damage if they are flushed out of the eye quickly.
Acids (such as bleach or battery acid) and
alkali substances (such as oven cleansers or fertilizers) can damage the eye. It may take 24
hours after the burn occurs to determine the seriousness of an eye burn.
Chemical fumes and vapors can also irritate the eyes.
Burns to the
eyelid or eye can cause eye problems. Blasts of hot air or steam can burn the
face and eyes. Bursts of flames or flash fires from stoves or explosives can
also burn the face and eyes. If you have burns to your eyelids, see the topic
Eyes that are not protected by a
mask or ultraviolet (UV) filtering sunglasses can be burned by exposure to the
high-intensity light of a welder's equipment (torch or arc) or to bright
sunlight (especially when the sun is reflecting off snow or water). The eyes
also may be injured by other bright lights, such as from tanning booths or
sunlamps. Exposure to high-intensity light may cause temporary blindness. It may take up to 24 hours for the extent of the eye injury to be
Flushing the eye with water is the
most important first-aid step for a burn to the eye.
You can use
any of these methods to flush the eye. Remove contact lenses first, if you can,
and then hold your eyelids open while you:
Stand under a shower with open eyes.
Put your face under a running faucet.
Use a kitchen
sink sprayer at low pressure.
Immerse your face in a sink or pan
filled with water.
Run water from a garden hose over your eye (do
not use the spray nozzle).
Pour water from a pitcher or jug over
Do not use alcohol to flush the eye.
Pain in adults and older children
Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain
is so bad that you can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and
can't do anything else except focus on the pain.
Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt your
normal activities and your sleep, but you can tolerate it for hours or days.
Moderate can also mean pain that comes and goes even if it's severe when it's
Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain,
but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.
Call 911 Now
Based on your answers, you need
Call911or other emergency services now.
Flushing your eye is the most important first aid measure for something in the eye.
If you are wearing contacts, remove them before flushing your eye.
Flush the eye from the inner corner toward the outer corner. This prevents a substance in one eye from washing into the other eye.
Flush the eye with cool water until help arrives.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Your age. Babies and older
adults tend to get sicker quicker.
Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart
disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care
Medicines you take. Certain
medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them
Recent health events, such as surgery
or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them
Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug
use, sexual history, and travel.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease,
Long-term alcohol and drug
Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for
Other medicines used to treat autoimmune
Medicines taken after organ transplant.
having a spleen.
Home treatment may relieve your eye
Immediately flush the eye with cool water. If you wear contacts, be sure to remove your contacts. This is the first step in first aid for a chemical burn or first aid for a heat burn to the eye. Fill a sink or dishpan
with water. Put your face in the water, then open and close your eyelids to
force water to all parts of your eye.
Eye injury to a child
Applying first aid measures for
an eye injury to a child may be difficult depending on the child's age, size,
and ability to cooperate. Having another adult help you treat the child is
helpful. Stay calm, and talk in a soothing voice. Use slow, gentle movements to
help the child remain calm and cooperative. A struggling child may need to be
held strongly so that first aid can be started and the seriousness of the eye
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription
medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Aspirin (also a nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drug), such as Bayer or Bufferin
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these
safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Carefully read and follow all directions
on the medicine bottle and box.
If you wear contacts, be sure to remove your contacts when your eye problem starts.
The following tips may help prevent burns
to the eye:
safety glasses, goggles, or face shields when working
with power tools or chemicals or when doing any activity that might cause an object
or substance to get into your eyes. If you work with hazardous chemicals that
could splash into your eyes, be aware of the proper procedure for flushing
out chemicals, and know the location of the nearest shower or sink.
a mask or goggles designed for welding if you are welding or near someone else
who is welding.
ultraviolet (UV) light can be prevented by wearing
sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) rays and by wearing broad-brimmed hats.
Be aware that the eye can be injured from glare during boating, sunbathing, and
skiing. Use eye protection while under tanning lamps or when using tanning
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.