Emergency advice

Eye injuries - flash burns:

  1. Reassure the casualty.
  2. Get them to hold an eye pad against the affected eye(s).
  3. Remove contact lenses.
  4. Send or take to hospital.


What are flash burns?

Flash burn is a condition that occurs when the surface of the eye is damaged by exposure to ultraviolet light, such as prolonged glare from sunlight reflecting off snow without protective goggles. It can also be caused by the flashback from a welder’s torch if a face shield is not worn. The development of symptoms is normally over a few hours and usually recovery can take a few days.

Signs and symptoms

Look for:

  • intense pain in the affected eye(s).

There may also be:

  • a ‘gritty’ feeling in the eye.
  • sensitivity to light.
  • redness and watering of the eye.
  • blurred vision.

What to do

  1. Reassure the casualty and if they’re wearing contact lenses, ask them to remove them.

    If the pain is severe, bandage an eye pad over each affected eye.

    Sunglasses may help if their eyes are sensitive to light.

    Paracetamol or ibuprofen may help the pain, if the patient is able to take them.

  2. Seek medical advice straight away - dial 999 / 112 / 111 or attend an Eye Casualty, Emergency Department or Urgent Treatment Centre.

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