Search icon

Children's health

09th Aug 2023

Optician explains what to do when sand gets in your kid’s eyes to avoid damage

Jody Coffey

“Getting sand in your eyes can ruin any beach trip if left untreated or handled improperly”

While we may not be getting the sunshine we were hoping for, many families are jetting off to beaches abroad to soak up the remainder of the summer.

Meanwhile, those who are sticking around may decide to take advantage of Ireland’s colder beaches for walks and family days out before it’s time to head back to school.

Regardless of location, experts have warned that parents and guardians should be aware of how to deal with sand getting into their children’s eyes to avoid painful or lasting damage.

Luckily, Nimmi Mistry, professional services optician at Vision Direct, has shared the do’s and don’t for getting sand in your eyes with HerFamily – with the main piece of advice being ‘don’t panic’.

Do not rub your eyes

Of course, our first instinct when something gets in our eye is to rub it enough to remove it.

However, this is strongly advised against by experts as sand is super coarse and could scratch the eye.

Trying to keep your child’s hands out of their eyes if sand makes its way in may be a difficult task but doing this can can lead to corneal abrasion, and, ultimately, an infection if neglected.

Wash your hands

Before doing anything, ensuring your hands are clean and free of bacteria or dirt should be your number one priority before bringing your hands near you or your little ones’ eyes.

Thoroughly wash with soap and water and try to blink frequently to attempt to flush the sand out.

Then, if you can make your way to a clean water source, attempt to rinse the eye out.

Flush your eyes as soon as possible

This one really depends on your location.

While some tap water will be safe to use, others may not not. If in doubt, use clean bottled water as soon as possible after sand infiltrates the eye.

Another trusted option would be to locate the nearest pharmacy and ask if they have a specific eye wash in stock for flushing debris from the eye and reducing discomfort.

It is important to note that you should never use sea water, water from lakes, rivers, or streams to flush your eyes as they may contain contaminants and other organisms such as Acanthamoeba (yes, it is as unsettling as it sounds).

Acanthamoeba Keratitis is an infection that can occur if the eye comes into contact with irritation or a cut and gets exposed to contaminated water.

It can spread when touching your eyes with infected water on your hands and can result in blurred vision or vision loss, a cloudy or dirty-looking cornea, eye pain and redness, sensitivity to light, and more.

People that wear contact lens are more susceptible to this due to frequent hand and eye contact.

Remove contact lenses 

Speaking of lens wearers, be sure to remove them from yours or your child’s eyes as soon as possible (with clean hands) if sand, or any debris for that matter, travels into the eye.

Not to freak anyone out, but this is because contact lenses can trap germs on the surface of your eye, where they breed which could result in a serious eye infection.

If you or your little ones’ eye is sore and irritated, consider switching to glasses for a day or two to allow for the eye to settle and recover.

It may also give more peace of mind to switch to daily disposable lenses for the duration of the vacation to ensure you have clean lenses on hand should anything happen.

As a precautionary measure, experts recommend that a copy of a prescription for all lens wearers in your family should be brought on the trip, as well as their glasses as back up to avoid being caught short.

Don’t wait to seek medical attention

Okay, you’ve done all of the above and the irritation and discomfort reigns on.

If you find that this is the case, you may need to seek a medical professional to investigate further.

The following symptoms may be experienced if the sand has caused a corneal abrasion:

  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Excessive tearing
  • Red eyes
  • Pain when opening and closing your eyelids.

In this situation, experts would strongly urge you to consult a doctor, even if on holiday.

They will be able to advise the best course of treatment for the infection, inflammation, and diagnosis any pain you may be experiencing.

If ignored, and there is no improvement, it could result in an infection that could cause serious long-term problems.

Better to be safe than sorry!