First Aid for Eye Emergencies

Do You Know What to Do in Case of an Eye Care Emergency?

Do you know how to handle an eye emergency? Learning these first aid basics can help you protect your sight.

Cuts to the Eye

Protecting the eye is an important step after a puncture to the eye or eyelids. The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests making a shield by taping the bottom of a paper cup to the bones around your eyes. If a fishhook, nail, or other object is stuck in your eye, don’t pull it out, as you may worsen your injuries.

Go to the emergency room or see your ophthalmologist immediately if you have a cut or puncture. Don’t rinse the eye with water or apply pressure to it.

Although cuts and punctures can be painful, it’s not a good idea to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medication, like ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or aspirin, as these medications can increase bleeding.

Scratched Eye

Scratches can happen if you get something in your eye or an object brushes against any part of your eye. Rinsing your eye with water or saline solution may help wash away any debris.

Even after the debris is gone, it may still feel like something is stuck in your eye. Resist the urge to rub your eye, as rubbing can worsen a scratch. If your eyes are sensitive to the light, sunglasses may help reduce tearing and discomfort.

Your eye doctor may recommend eye drops that decrease your pain, antibiotic eye drops to treat or prevent infections, or special drops that reduce inflammation.

Debris in the Eye

Nearly everyone gets something in their eyes from time to time. In many cases, it may be possible to rinse away a speck of dirt and sand with water or saline solution. Lifting your upper eyelid up and over the bottom lid, then rolling your eye, may also help dislodge debris.

If debris is still stuck in your eye, don’t try to remove it yourself with your fingers, tweezers, or a cotton swab, as you may damage your eye. Your ophthalmologist or the emergency room staff can safely remove objects stuck in your eye.


Chemicals and caustic cleaning products can be very damaging to the sensitive tissues of your eye. Rinse your eye with clean water immediately after contact with the chemical. WebMD recommends flushing your eye for at least 15 minutes after exposure to a chemical.

Follow flushing with a trip to the emergency room, or call 911. Be sure to remove contact lenses if you can. The lenses may trap the chemicals against your eye, increasing pain, irritation, and burning. Bringing the chemical or product with you will make it easier for the doctors to determine the best type of treatment.

Eye Trauma

Blows to the face can also hurt your eyes. If you’ve been hit in the eye, gently place a cold compress against your eye. Don’t apply pressure to the compress. If you notice any changes in your vision or the way your eye looks, call your ophthalmologist or visit the emergency room.

A fall or blow to the face could fracture one of the bones surrounding your eye. If this happens, you may notice one or more of these symptoms:

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sunken eye
  • Bulging eye
  • Swelling under the eye or on the forehead or cheek
  • Pain when opening your mouth
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty moving your eye

Fractures often heal on their own but may require surgery in some cases.

First aid treatment and a trip to the ophthalmology office or emergency room will help you protect your eyesight in the event of an eye injury. If you’ve experienced an injury or need to schedule an eye exam, give our office a call.


American Academy of Ophthalmology: What Is an Orbital Fracture?, 9/28/17

Prevent Blindness: Your Sight

WebMD: First Aid for Eye Injuries, 9/11/20

All About Vision: 7 Common Eye Injuries and How to Treat Them