Eye injuries: Dealing with a chemical burn

A chemical burn in the eye occurs if it is exposed to a powder or liquid chemical. Generally, the injury occurs if chemical splashes over the face. Nevertheless, burns can also occur when rubbing the eyes after handling chemicals.

Depending on the chemical and extent of exposure, the possibility for injury ranges from brief redness and irritation or even blindness. The chemicals that splash into the eyes can also cause poisoning if absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly than being splashed into the skin.

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The indications of a chemical burn in the eye depends on the type of substance.

It is vital to use proper safety goggles or a face shield when handling powder or liquid chemicals. If splashed by non-toxic liquids such as shampoos or soaps, flush the eye using fresh water. As for splashes from alkali or acidic chemicals, immediate medical care is required due to the possibility for serious harm and vision loss.

What are the indications of a chemical burn

The indications of a chemical burn in the eye depends on the type of substance but generally includes the following:

  • Redness
  • Stinging and burning sensation
  • Eye pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Swollen eyelids

First aid measures

Splashes from powder or liquid chemicals can significantly impair the eyes. In most cases, immediate and thorough rinsing of the eye can reduce the risk for injury and lasting damage. It is often better to use the nearest tap than using saline from a first aid kit.

  • Hold the face under running water for 15-20 minutes and allow the water to flood into the eyes. Hold the eyelids apart using your fingers.
  • If the individual is using contact lenses, they should be removed right away.
  • Seek immediate medical care.

Management

The treatment is based on the chemical and severity of the injury but usually include:

  • Pain medications
  • Eye drops
  • Topical antibiotics to reduce the risk for infection
  • Lubricants can be applied on the eye surface to prevent the eyelids from adhering to the cornea as it heals
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • An eye patch can be used for mild cases until the eye recovers
  • In severe cases, hospitalization is required as well as management of any complications.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on chemical burns in the eye is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage eye injuries, register for a first aid and CPR course with Red Deer First Aid.

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