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Home > Health Library > Burns to the Eye
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.
See a picture of the eye.
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 Burns.
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 known.
After a burn injury to the eye, it is important to watch for signs of an eye infection.
For more information about other types of eye injuries, such as blows to the eye, see the topic Eye Injuries.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
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:
Do not use alcohol to flush the eye.
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
If a chemical got in the eye:
For any other burns to the eye:
The immediate first aid for chemical or heat burns in the eye area is to flush the eye with cool water for at least 30 minutes.
Flushing your eye is the most important first aid measure for something in the eye.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Home treatment may relieve your eye symptoms.
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.
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 injury assessed.
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
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:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
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:
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
If you have had a burn to the eye that affects your vision, have someone else drive you to your doctor. If you are wearing contact lenses, remove them, and take your glasses with you.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
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