Eye - Injury
Urgent or Emergency Care?
If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.
Help Me Decide
- Injuries to the eye, eyelid, and area around the eye
Types of Eye Injuries
- Cut or Scratch of Eyelid. Small cuts heal on their own. Deep cuts or ones that go through the edge of the eyelid need sutures.
- Bruise of the Eyelids. Also called a "black eye". The swelling and bruise get worse for a few days. Then it will go away on its own over 2 -3 weeks. It's normal for the bruise to change colors as it heals.
- Subconjunctival Hemorrhage. This is a flame-shaped bruise of the white part (sclera) of the eyeball. It's bright red. It's caused by a scratch to the sclera. It's a mild injury that will go away on its own over 2 weeks.
- Corneal Abrasion. A scratch of the clear part (cornea) of the eye. The cornea is the window in front of the iris. The main symptoms are severe eye pain, tearing and constant blinking. Some children will just hold their eye closed. Caused by a scratch from a branch of a tree or bush. Can also be caused by a foreign object stuck under the upper eyelid. Most are minor and heal in 2 days. This is the most common eye injury that needs to see a doctor.
- Acute Hyphema (Serious). It means bleeding in the space between the cornea and the iris. The blood often layers out at the bottom of the cornea. It's caused by blunt trauma.
- Punctured Eyeball (Serious). It means a sharp object has completely torn the cornea or sclera. Can happen with tiny objects thrown by a lawnmower.
- The main concern is whether the vision is damaged.
- Older children can tell us if their vision is blurred or out of focus. You can test this at home. Cover each eye in turn and having them look at a distant object.
- Children less than 5 years old usually need to be examined. This is also true even if the injury seems minor. Having an exam is the only way to know the child's vision is okay.
Go to ER Now
- Vision is blurred or lost in either eye
- Seeing double or can't look up
- Bloody or cloudy fluid behind the clear part of the eye (cornea)
- Object hit the eye at high speed (such as from a lawn mower)
- Nonstop tears or blinking
- Child keeps the eye covered or will not open it
- Severe eye pain
- Large deep cut that will need many stitches
Call Doctor or Seek Care Now
- Pupils not equal in size
- Sharp object hit the eye (such as a metal chip or flying glass)
- Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
- Any cut on the eyelid or eyeball
- Age less than 1 year old
- You think your child has a serious injury
- You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent
Call Doctor Within 24 Hours
- Bruises near the eye
- You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent
Call Doctor During Office Hours
- Dirty cut and no tetanus shot in more than 5 years
- Clean cut and no tetanus shot in more than 10 years
- You have other questions or concerns
Self Care at Home
Care Advice for Minor Eye Injuries
- Small Cuts, Scratches or Scrapes Treatment:
- For any bleeding, put direct pressure on the wound. Use a gauze pad or clean cloth. Press for 10 minutes or until the bleeding has stopped.
- Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes. Protect the eye with a clean cloth.
- For cuts or scrapes, use an antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed.
Put it on the cut 3 times a day. Do this for 3 days.
- Cover large scrapes with a bandage (such as Band-Aid). Change daily.
- Swelling or Bruises with Intact Skin (including a Black Eye) Treatment:
- Put a cold pack or ice wrapped in a wet cloth on the eye. Do this for 20 minutes. This will help stop the bleeding and swelling. Repeat as needed.
- A black eye usually takes 1 to 2 days to occur.
- A flame-shaped bruise of the white of the eyeball is also common.
- After 48 hours, use a warm wet cloth for 10 minutes. Do this 3 times per day. Reason: To help reabsorb the blood.
- Pain Medicine:
- To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
- Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil).
- Use as needed.
- What to Expect:
- Minor cuts and scratches, as well as bruises, are harmless.
- They last about 2 weeks.
- They do not need any medicine to help them go away.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Pain becomes severe
- Changes in vision
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Your child becomes worse
The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.
Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
- You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
- Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
- Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
- If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.
If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!
And when in doubt, call your child's doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.
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