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First Aid for Eye Injuries

  • Pollen causes allergies to act up, resulting in itchy, watery eyes. If allergies are a problem, some people might have to go without contacts during the pollen season, and wear eyeglasses instead. If you are an allergic person but insist on wearing your contacts, make sure you drive in an air-conditioned car to prevent pollen from blowing into an open window. And always carry an extra lens case with you in case the irritation gets to be too much. You can also carry eye drops with you to soothe irritation.
  • A soft contact lens suddenly contracts, curling up into the top of the eye. This can be quite painful, but it is best not to panic. If possible, the wearer should gently move the upper lid over the contact, pushing the curled up lens to the side of the eye. With clean hands, he or she can then remove the lens. Always clean the contact before replacing it. To soothe red, irritated eyes (which result from all the poking and curling), place a few drops of eye drops or rewetting solution in your eyes and wait at least a half hour before replacing your lens.
  • First Things First

    Here's a simple tip just in case a dot of mascara or a fleck of dirt gets into your eye and, consequently, on to your contact lens. Always keep an extra contact lens case in your pocketbook, your attaché case, or even your back pocket. Make sure it's in fresh solution so that if you must take out your lens, you'll have a place to put it that's sterile and clean.

  • A contact gets stuck on the eye. Especially when a person first gets contacts, the contact will sometimes adhere tightly to the eye. First, gently try to move it to the corner of the eye (as described in the previous item). If that doesn't work, have a medical professional take it out. You don't want to damage the eye. If it's the middle of the night and you can't get your contact out, try taking a few deep breaths (panicking won't help) and add rewetting solution to your eye to lubricate it. Then try again. If you still can't get your contact out, wait another 15 minutes. If you still have no luck, you'll have to go to the emergency room or a 24-hour Medicenter. Do not go to sleep with your contacts in (unless they are made for extended wear). Not only can that damage the eye, it can cause infection!

    Chlorine and salt water can irritate eyes and contact lenses. If you're going swimming, it's best to take out the lenses before you go into the water. You can also purchase swimming goggles that have prescription lenses, if necessary.

    Contact lens problems rarely call for emergency treatment. But, when combined with a black eye, a cut on the eye, or an embedded foreign object, they can signal danger. Follow the instructions for whichever specific eye emergency you're dealing with and keep contacts in place until help arrives.

    Chemicals Get in Your Eyes

    As discussed in First Aid for Burns, when a person comes into contact with certain chemicals, they can burn and cause damage to all areas of the body. Likewise, when some chemicals get in the eye, they can cause burns, terrible pain, and even blindness. Some of the chemicals that can burn the eye include:

    Acid Enzyme products used for clogged drains
    Bleach Bathroom and kitchen cleaners
    Ammonia Furniture oils
    Hair dye Alcohol

    When a person gets a chemical in his eye, it is an emergency that requires immediate first aid. Follow these steps to administer the appropriate first aid treatment:

    First Things First

    If you don't have water handy, you can also use cool milk.

    1. Tilt the injured person's head to the side toward the injured eye. (You don't want the chemicals to get in the good eye as well!)
    2. Gently open the damaged eye the best that you can with the fingers of one hand.
    3. With the other hand, pour cool water into the eye.
    4. Keep pouring water in the eye until help arrives. The more you flush the eye, the better the chances that the chemical will wash out and no permanent damage will be done.

    A Black Eye

    A black eye usually looks worse than it really is (emotional pain aside). Whether it's the result of a punch, walking into a wall, or extreme suction caused by tight goggles while swimming, a black eye needs medical attention. Sometimes there is bleeding that's not outwardly apparent. Likewise, the injury that caused the black eye may have also caused a contact lens to scratch the cornea. And if the black eye is accompanied by swelling, the swelling may affect a person's vision.

    Sometimes a blow to the eye will cause swelling without “attractively colored hues.” Treat swelling as you would discoloration. A bruise is a bruise is a bruise, whatever color it may be!

    The best first aid is to take the injured person to a medical professional and let him or her take a look at the eye. While you're waiting:

    1. Make sure the injured person is lying comfortably on his or her back.
    2. Have the injured person keep his or her eyes shut. If necessary, cover both eyes with a sterile gauze pad. (When it is dark, there is less eye movement.)
    3. Soak a washcloth, a gauze pad, or any available piece of cloth in cold water, and place the wet compress over the closed eyes to ease discomfort.

More on: First Aid

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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