Parents have been asking me some eye-opening questions about eye injuries in their children and what to do about them. Let me see if I can go eye to eye with them and provide some information on this topic.

Let’s start with what are considered minor, but still painful, eye injuries. For example, when something like dirt, sand or other material lands on the surface of your child’s eye.

While uncomfortable for your child, treatment is something that you can usually do at home. It involves flushing out the irritant with water.

1. Tilt your child’s head over a basin or sink with the affected eye down.

2. Gently pull down on the lower eyelid.

3. Gently pour a steady stream of lukewarm water over the eye.

4. Continue to do this for 15 minutes or so.

5. Check the eye every five minutes to see if the irritant has been removed or the pain is better.

6. If the condition does not improve, seek medical attention.

If an object, such as glass or metal, penetrates the eye, go to your local emergency room immediately. If there is a chemical exposure, and you know what the chemical is, call the number on the product container. Or, you can call the Northern New England Regional Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222.

If your child’s eye is hit during sports, it can bruise and become a black eye. Any black eye should be checked out medically. A provider should make sure the trauma to the eye is no more than a bruise. If it is just a bruise, treatment involves cold compresses, while awake, for at least a day or two.

Seek medical attention if you observe these symptoms: redness in the eye; drainage; lasting eye pain or sensitivity to light; changes in vision; visible bleeding in any part of the eye.

The best way to prevent an eye injury is to wear protective eyewear. This includes safety goggles or glasses with unbreakable polycarbonate safety lenses. Also, keep chemicals and objects that shoot projectiles out of the reach of children.

Hopefully tips like these will “eye-dentify” what you need to know, within the blink of an eye, about eye injuries.

Dr. Lewis First is chief of pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.

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