Eye Injuries (Children)

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on February 04, 2020

Call 911 or Go to an Urgent Care Center if the Child Has:

  • An object such as a piece of glass or metal or a pencil stuck in an eye (if your ophthalmologist is not in the office)
  • Uneven pupils (if there's been a closed-head injury)
  • Problems seeing after an eye injury
  • Been in contact with chemicals, especially alkali such as drain cleaner

Call the Doctor if Your Child:

  • Is younger than age 1
  • Has been hit in the eye with an object
  • Has an irritated or red eye
  • Has continuous tearing
  • Has an eye that's extremely sensitive to light
  • Keeps blinking
  • Has a painful, swollen, or red area close to the eyelid or eye
  • Has a cut on the eyeball (a cut on the eyelid is less medically urgent)
  • May need stitches

Simply flushing the eye with water often helps when your child has something in their eye. But serious eye injuries need immediate medical care.

Treating a Child's Minor Eye Irritation

1. Clean Up

2. Stop Rubbing

  • Keep the child from rubbing the eye.

3. Rinse the Eye

  • Hold the child's head over a sink, facing down and to the side, and hold the eye open.
  • Gently pour water over the eye for five minutes and see whether the object is out. Repeat up to two more times if the object does not come out of the eye.
  • If the object is still in the eye, put a light bandage over it and take the child to the emergency room.

Treating an Object Stuck in the Eye

1. Protect the Eye

  • Tape a paper cup over the eye.
  • Do not try to remove the object.

2. Go to the Emergency Room

Treating a Minor Cut or Scratch Around the Eye

1. Stop the Bleeding

  • Hold gauze on the wound for 10 minutes.

2. Clean the Injury

  • Cover the eye with a cloth for protection, and wash the area with clean water for a few minutes.

3. Protect the Wound

  • Ask your pediatrician whether you should use antibiotic ointment if the wound is close to the eye or eyelid.
  • Put a bandage on the wound.
  • Change the bandage every day.

4. Provide Pain Relief

Treating a Black Eye, Bruising, or Swelling

1. Check for Further Injury

  • If you suspect broken bones, damage to the eye, or a head injury, take the child to the emergency room.
  • If the black eye was caused by something hitting the eye, call your pediatrician.

2. Apply Cold

  • Put an ice pack on the area for 20 minutes each hour to lessen swelling. Repeat for four hours. Don't press on the eye.

3. Apply Heat

  • After 2 days, switch to a warm cloth on the area for 10 minutes, three times daily.

4. Provide Pain Relief

  • Give child-formula acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) for pain, if needed.
  • Do not give aspirin to a child who is under age 16.

Treating Chemical Exposure

1. Clean Up

2. Prevent Rubbing

  • Keep the child from rubbing the affected eye.

3. Immediately Rinse the Eye

  • Hold the child's head over a sink, facing down and to the side, and hold the eye open. If outside, use whatever water is closest -- water fountain, garden hose.
  • Pour water over the eye for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • If the chemical is in both eyes, rinse them in the shower.

4. Go to the Emergency Room

Show Sources


The Nemours Foundation: "Eye Injuries" and "Eye Injuries Instruction Sheet."

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Eye -- Injury."

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