Eye injury

There are about 1000 serious accidental eye injuries in children in the UK every year. These injuries can range from scratches to the surface of the eye and chemical burns and having foreign objects in the eye.

The advice below should help you decide whether your child’s eye injury requires further help or whether it can be managed by yourself at home.

When should you worry?

If your child has any of the following:

  • Any changes to their sight after an eye injury such as blurred vision, double vision, seeing a shadow or flashes
  • Unable to open eye or keep eye open
  • Pupils are not round or equal in size after the injury
  • The eye has been exposed to chemicals
  • Something embedded in the eye
  • Severe eye pain
  • Bleeding in or around the eye
  • Nausea or vomiting after an eye injury

You need urgent help

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999 or the nearest Eye casualty

John Radcliffe Hospital Eye Casualty - call our specialised telephone triage number:

Tel: 01865 234567 option 1 followed by option 1, Monday to Friday 8.30am - 4.30pm, Saturday and Sunday 8.30am - 3.30pm (including Bank Holidays)

Please commence the following first aid (see more information in 'What should you do?' section below):

  • Wash out the affected eye thoroughly with clean water if chemical or small particle exposure (ie sand)
  • Keep the injured eye still – do not try to move it
  • Lightly cover the eye

If your child has any of the following:

  • Been struck in the eye with a ball or other object
  • Red or irritated eye
  • A swollen, red or painful area around the eye or eyelid
  • An eye that is very sensitive to light
  • An eye injury that does not get better after 24 hours
  • You are worried about the eye injury

You need to contact a clinician today

Please call your GP surgery or contact NHS 111 - Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.(111 online does not currently take questions about children aged under 5, so if your child is 4 or younger,  please call 111).

If symptoms persist for 4 hours or more and you have not been able to speak to either a member of staff from your GP practice or to NHS 111 staff, recheck that your child has not developed any red features.

If none of the above features are present

Self care

Continue providing your child’s care at home – see below for tips on managing injuries at home

What should you do?

Wash out the affected eye  

  • If the eye has been exposed to chemicals or fine particles like sand or grit
  • Avoid if injury involved significant force or you can see any cuts to the eye itself
  • Use clean water (not hot) – this can be from a tap, shower, or bottled water if you're not at home
  • Hold the eye open
  • Run lots of water over the eyeball for at least 20 minutes
  • Make sure the flow of water is not too strong

Pain relief


  • Lightly cover the eye to prevent your child from rubbing it
  • Do not try to remove any object that has pierced skin or eye
  • Do not wear contact lens or make up until the eye is better

Think prevention

  • Children who play sports should wear protective goggles or unbreakable glasses as needed
  • Keep chemicals and other hazardous objects and products out of reach of children
  • Supervise your child when they are playing with toys or Nerf guns
  • Make sure your child has age-appropriate toys
  • Make sure all safety equipment meets national standards
  • Make sure sharp edges, such as table corners, are covered if your child is toddling around
  • Be wary of dogs that are not known to you

Where should you seek help?

The service provides assessment and treatment for people with recently occurring minor eye conditions.

Provided by MECS accredited optometrists (also known as opticians) across Oxfordshire who have specialist knowledge, equipment, training and skills.

Please note, this service is for people aged 6 and over.

Go to the MECS website for more information and how to book an appointment: Minor Eye Conditions Service – Oxfordshire LOC

Minor eye conditions that can be treated by the service include but are not limited to:

  • Red eye or eyelids
  • Dry, gritty, irritable and uncomfortable eyes
  • Significant recent sticky or watery discharge from the eye
  • Recently occurring flashes and or floaters
  • Painful eye including pain with bright lights
  • Ingrowing eyelashes
  • Recent and sudden change in vision
  • Foreign body in the eye
  • Unusual eye appearance (lumps and bumps)

Please note this is not an eyesight test.

You will not be eligible for a MECS  appointment if you:

  • Do not have an Oxfordshire GP.
  • Are under the age of 6.
  • Have had the condition for longer than 6 weeks.
  • Wear contact lenses and believe the condition is related to your use of them (please contact your regular contact lens Optician).

For wear and tear, minor trips and everything in between



You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughscolds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  • Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP
  • Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately
  • Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns or to the Community Paediatricians or to the child and adolescent mental health services.

Contact them by phoning your Health Visitor Team or local Children’s Centre.

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and or emotional health needs.

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  • Doctors or GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E
  • Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, you can call 111 or use 111 online.

Please note that 111 online is for people aged 5 and over. Call 111 if you need help for a child under 5.

An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  • Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services
  • If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment
  • Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance
Survey for parents and carers - what was the outcome of you looking at this page?