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First Aid for Eye Injuries

Ouch!

Removing an object with a Q-tip can be tricky. As with objects lodged in the ear, only use cotton swabs if you can see the particle on the eye's surface. If the particle doesn't stick to the Q-tip with a gentle touch, don't keep trying! You can cause more damage. Instead, cover the eyes with gauze pads and get medical help.

Before You Put the Band-Aid On

Although your eye does have a lid, eyelashes, and a continuous wash of fluid to keep infection and foreign objects at bay, sometimes that's still not enough. Shingles (a painful virus that is, in actuality, an adult form of chicken pox), Herpes Zoster (a virus that is a relative to the sexually-transmitted Herpes Complex), and poison ivy or other rashes don't always stay on the cheeks or eyelids. These conditions can get into the eye by way of rubbing or touching, and they can cause vision loss if not treated. If you or someone you love has an outbreak of any of these conditions, make sure to keep hands and hair away from the eye. And make sure you see your doctor for treatment of all the areas of your face, including the eye!

Eye Scream: Cuts & Scratches

Cuts to the eye are, well, obvious to the naked eye. A cut bleeds and causes distortion to the eyeball. But scratches are a different matter. They can be very subtle. A scratch might feel like a pebble (or more like a boulder to the person in question) that has gotten into the eye. It feels as if a foreign object has “flown in,” even though you can't see anything. The eye can become bloodshot, and you might have trouble seeing clearly. Your eye will also feel very, very irritated.

Think of any cut or scratch on the eye as serious, and treat it as a medical emergency. Call for help, and while you are driving the injured person to a doctor, keep him or her in a semi-reclining position. Place a pillow beneath the head, if necessary. Cover both eyes with sterile gauze pads held in place with long strips of adhesive tape (as shown in the following illustration).

The list of DOs was easy. But just as important is the list of DON'Ts you need to follow when treating cuts or scratches on the eyeball, the eyelids, or even the skin around the eyes.

  • Don't exert pressure on the eye to stop bleeding. Although it may look bad, eye bleeding is rarely dangerous, and pressure will only cause more damage to the delicate eye area.
  • Don't attempt to remove contact lenses even if they are causing the injured person excessive pain. This too will exert pressure on the eye, which in turn can cause more damage.
  • Don't let the injured person rub his or her eye. It will cause more irritation.
  • Don't flush the eye with water. Bleeding, especially with loss of vision, can mean damage to the eyeball, a condition that water can further irritate.

Contact Lens Problems

Many people wear contact lenses. A responsible ophthalmologist or optician will have you practice taking out and putting in your contact lenses when you first get them, and he or she will instruct you on the methods for keeping them sterile and clean.

Today, soft wear contacts are the most popular. They are flexible, easy to use, and unlikely to irritate the eye. (They also come in an array of fashion colors.) Hard lens contacts are more cumbersome, but they are more suitable for some eye conditions. And often, people who start with hard lenses tend to stay with them.

Choosing between hard and soft lenses is a matter of personal choice (like choosing between a stick shift and an automatic, a Mac and a PC, potato and potatoe). Regardless, most wearers become comfortable with the process of putting in and taking out within a few weeks. But contact lens accidents can still happen, no matter how long a person has worn them.

The most common problems that contact wearers face include:

First Aids

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diseases of the eye. Not only is she trained to examine eyes, but she is also capable of diagnosing and treating such conditions as astigmatism, glaucoma, and cataracts. An optician is also highly trained in examining eyes. He or she can fill an eyeglass prescription and provide contact lenses. If the optician notices peculiarities in the eye, he or she must refer the patient to an ophthalmologist.

  • Hard lenses pop out. Surely you've seen people on their hands and knees searching the floor for a contact lens like it is the proverbial needle in a haystack. Missing lenses are hardly an emergency. However, it's always good to have an extra pair on hand when you're planning a trip.
  • Wind, earth, and fire often irritate the eyes of contact wearers. So do mascara and other eye makeup. To prevent such irritations, you can keep the windows closed while driving in a car and wear non-prescription sunglasses for protection. You might also try using hypoallergenic cosmetics, going without mascara, and putting the contacts in after applying eyeliner and before applying mascara (if brush you must).

    If a speck of dirt does get in the eye, there's no need to panic. Simply take out the contact, rewash in sterile solution, and then replace it. You might want to add rewetting drops if your eye is red and irritated.



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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to First Aid Basics © 1996 by Stephen J. Rosenberg, M.D. and Karla Dougherty. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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