Chemical Burns to the Eye in Children: Care Instructions

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Parts of the eye


Chemical burns to the eye can cause keratitis. Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea. The cornea is the outer, clear layer that covers the colored part of the eye and pupil. If your child gets chemicals in the eyes, it may take as long as 24 hours to know if there is damage. Your child's eyes will be flushed with water to reduce the chance of serious damage.

Your doctor may have put a few drops of medicine into your child's eye to help reduce swelling and to prevent infection and scarring. The doctor may also have given your child an eye patch or a special type of contact lens to wear while the eye heals.

The doctor probably used medicine to numb your child's eye. When the medicine wears off in 30 to 60 minutes, the eye pain may come back. The doctor may have you give pain medicine to your child.

Your child may need a follow-up visit with an eye doctor for another exam or more treatment.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • If your doctor gave you ointment or eyedrops for your child, use them as directed. Use the medicine for as long as your doctor tells you to, even if the eye starts to look and feel better. Wash your hands before using the medicine.
  • To put in eyedrops or ointment:
    • Tilt your child's head back, and pull the lower eyelid down with one finger.
    • Drop or squirt the medicine inside the lower lid.
    • Have your child close the eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the drops or ointment move around.
    • Do not touch the ointment or dropper tip to your child's eyelashes or any other surface.
  • Be sure to use only the eyedrops your doctor prescribed. Do not use over-the-counter eyedrops because they may make your child's symptoms worse.
  • Do not let your child use a contact lens in the hurt eye until your doctor says it's okay.
  • Do not let your child wear eye makeup until the eye heals.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • For the first 24 to 48 hours, limit your child's reading and other tasks that require a lot of eye movement.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has a sudden loss of vision.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse eye pain.
  • Your child's vision gets worse.
  • Your child's eyes have new or worse sensitivity to light.
  • Your child has symptoms of an eye infection, such as:
    • Pus or thick discharge coming from the eye.
    • Redness or swelling around the eye.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child's eyes are not getting better or they get worse.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.