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Eye injuries can be painful and permanent. However, there are steps that can be taken that can reduce or eliminate the risks and reduce the extent of the harm caused by an eye injury. A recent USA Today report stated that each year more than 2.5 million eye injuries occur. Nearly half of these eye injuries happen at home. Ninety percent of those injuries can be avoided by using protective eyewear.

Rule No. 1 for all eye injuries: Do. Not. Rub. You could scratch your cornea (the clear protective outer layer of your eye), or worse. I have made a small eye injury much worse by rubbing my eyes. The most common eye injuries are usually debris in the eye, a cut or punctured eye, and, chemicals or caustic materials in the eyes. Here are several safety suggestions from this report for these three common areas of eye injury:

Debris in your eye.

It doesn’t take much for a fleck of dirt, grain of sand or any other speck to make its way onto — or into — your eye. To protect your eye, blink it out; the movement and subsequent tears can flush out the foreign material. Another trick: Pull your upper eyelid over the lower one; the lashes on the bottom lid may brush out whatever is underneath the top lid. But don’t force it out. If the particle stays put, or if it’s embedded, fight the urge to grab tweezers or swabs. Instead, use a clean cloth to cover the injured and uninjured eye — doing so helps prevent eye movement that can cause more damage — and call your doctor.

Cut or punctured eye.

Minor scratches can heal by themselves, but if your eye or eyelid has been cut, seek medical attention. In the meantime, apply a patch. The bottom of a paper cup taped around your eye works just fine. Do not rinse or apply pressure. Don’t take aspirin, ibuprofen and other non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs; they thin the blood and may increase bleeding.

Chemical burn.

Household cleaners, gardening chemicals and even laundry detergent can cause burns that require medical attention. Flush your eye immediately: Turn your head so the eye is down, then gently run lukewarm tap water directly over it for at least 20 minutes. If you wear contact lenses, remove them after flushing. Don’t bandage your eye. And don’t use eye drops unless emergency personnel tell you to.

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