We asked Dr. Steve Jacobs, OD a few questions about Eye Emergencies- and here is what he had to say:
Q: What is an eye infection?
A: Any infection is the result of “germs” kind of taking over the normal functioning of part of the body. “Germs” can be bacteria (think of a cut that gets infected), viruses (a cold or flu) or even fungi (athlete’s foot). Because the eye is so exposed to the environment, it can be affected by all three. With an infection, there is usually discomfort, redness, swelling and often, discharge.
Q: What should I do if I spill chemicals in my eye?
A: If you’re wearing a contact lens – remove it. Then - Rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse, rinse and rinse some more, preferably with a gentle direct stream of water or saline for 15 minutes. Then, find out what the chemical is, call Poison Control 1-800-222-1222 for more info and depending on what they say and how your eye feels, see an eye care professional as soon as feasible.
Q: What should I do if I get sand, metal, or wood, in my eyes?
A: Rinse with cool water or saline solution. If that makes it mostly better, monitor over the next day or so to be sure it’s feeling OK. If rinsing doesn’t help, or it’s still bothering you the following day, see an eye care professional as soon as feasible.
Q: I am seeing spots or floating colors suddenly, what should I do?
A: Anything that seems out of the ordinary may be a cause for concern, even if most often nothing serious. The only way to know, though, is to speak with an eye care professional. Call your eye doctor’s office. A staff member may be able to answer some questions or have the doctor return your call to determine if and when you need to be seen. Other than vision “graying or blacking out” in an eye, these situations do not absolutely require same day attention, but should not be ignored either.
Q: Are eye infections dangerous?
A: Maybe. Some can be sight threatening within hours to days, whereas others will self resolve with no issues. Basically, if something is bothering you and is getting worse rather than better, get in to see your eye doctor. The worse it is or the more quickly it’s getting worse, the sooner you should be seen.
Q: Can my child go to school with an eye infection?
A: Some infections are very contagious, some not, and sometimes “pink eye” is not even an infection (for example if it’s caused by an allergy). A health professional, preferably an eye doctor who has the proper instrumentation to make the correct diagnosis, needs to see your child to make the call. If it may be contagious, whether at home, school or work, specific care should be taken regarding frequent hand washing, and avoidance of sharing towels, pillows, make-up, etc…