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A few years ago, I got a frantic phone call from a friend of mine. His eye was burning. The cause: he had a very cool job. Let me elaborate. My friend was a nature conservation guy and as part of his work he would perform “controlled burns” in the wilderness.
The day of the phone call, he was out burning things and even though he was wearing the protective goggles he was supposed to be wearing, a burning piece of vegetable matter still ended up inside his eye.
If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, the key is copious rinsing. If a burning object, chemical, food, fluid, etc. gets into your eye, the best thing to do is to rinse it out as quickly as possible and to do it for a long time. This will reduce the contact time of the offending agent and your eye.
Rinsing for a long time is especially important if you get acid or a caustic liquid in your eye (as the cells that make the epithelium (top) layer of your cornea can get permanently damaged if they are exposed too long to the bad substance).
The wash can be performed with tap water, saline, or eye wash. Again, the key is to do it with a large volume for a few minutes (try 10 minutes of rinsing if you can stand it).
After you’ve done your rinse, the eye can be soothed with over the counter artificial tears. If your vision is decreased, the eye very red, or you are still in pain, the best thing would be to seek immediate medical attention. Particles may still be trapped under the eyelid, you could have a corneal abrasion, or there may be a deep burn to the eye.
Ultimately, the key is prevention. Wear protective eyewear when handing noxious chemicals and liquids. If you happen to be one the fortunate few that get to burn things for a living, watch out for flying embers.
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