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Eye Injury: First Aid for Chemical Burns

Overview

A chemical burn can be caused by alkaline or acid products, metals, and hydrocarbons, such as gas.

If you wear contacts, remove them before flushing your eye. If you can't remove a contact, flush the eye with the contact in place.

Many workplaces have eye wash stations for burns to the eye. Know where they are and how to use them.

  1. Flush the eye with a large amount of water right away.

    Quickly diluting the chemical reduces the chance of serious eye damage. Flushing the eye is the first thing a doctor would do.

    • 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. You can also flush your eye gently under a running faucet, kitchen sink sprayer, or shower.
    • You may need to open and close your eyelids with your fingers.
    • Move your eye in all directions during the flushing so that all areas of your eye are rinsed.
  2. Call a poison control centre.

    The centre will give you more information about how to treat the burn. When you call the poison control centre, have the chemical container with you, so you can read the content label to the poison control staff.

  3. Keep flushing the eye.
    • Flush the eye for 30 minutes or until it stops hurting, whichever takes longer.
    • When flushing, pull the lower and upper eyelid forward to make sure that any solid or liquid chemical caught in these areas is rinsed away.
    • If severe pain continues after flushing, call 911 or other emergency services. Keep flushing the eye until help arrives.

After you flush the eye, wear dark glasses. Do not bandage or put any pressure on the eye. Keeping the eye closed may help reduce pain.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: November 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine

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