First Time User? Enroll now.
COVID-19: Vaccine information, testing, treatment, and additional resources
Home > Health Library > Burns to the Eye
Most substances that you get in your eyes and that make your eyes burn won't cause serious eye problems. The only treatment needed for items such as soaps, shampoos, and perfumes that get in the eyes is to flush the eyes with water right away. After flushing, the eyes may be slightly painful and irritated. But these symptoms should go away quickly.
Chemical burns can happen if a solid or liquid chemical or chemical fumes get into the eye. Many substances won't 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 tell how serious an eye burn may be. 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.
Eyes that aren't protected by a mask or ultraviolet (UV) filtering sunglasses can be burned if they're exposed to the high-intensity light of a welder's equipment (torch or arc) or to bright sunlight. (This is most likely when the sun reflects 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 to know how bad the eye injury is.
After a burn injury to the eye, it's important to watch for signs of an eye infection. Signs include pain in the eye and blurred or decreased vision.
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 them. 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, and then open and close your eyelids to force water to all parts of your eye. For a chemical burn, call a poison control center to learn more about how to treat the burn.
Using first aid for a child's eye injury may be hard. It depends 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 stay calm and cooperative. A struggling child may need to be held strongly so that first aid can be started and so that you can assess how serious the eye injury is.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
January 24, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: January 24, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.