From smoke and grit to pollen, your eyes can be exposed to a range of irritants throughout the day. When this happens, it’s important to flush out your eyes as quickly and effectively as possible to provide relief.
Other factors can cause irritation to your eyes too. For example, in this world of technology much of your day may be spent staring at screens. This could cause your eyes to become dry, red and sore.
Instinctively, our first reaction when our eyes experience some form of discomfort tends to be to rub at them with our hands. However, you should avoid this impulse if you can. Not only could your hands be unclean, but the act of rubbing could push particles against the cornea (the transparent layer that protects the front of your eye) and scratch it. While such scratches are not usually serious, they can be painful and add to your discomfort.
Instead, it’s best to use an eye wash. This type of wash cleanses, soothes and washes away small irritants
What is eye wash?
Put simply, eyewash is a sterile liquid that is pH balanced to the eye’s tear fluid, meaning it has optimal soothing power. These products are specifically formulated to be kind to the eyes, so they are a much less harsh option than simply using water.
What does eye wash do?
An eye wash works on many levels simultaneously to alleviate discomfort. It acts as a flush, flooding the eye and removing unwanted particles. At the same time, it lubricates the eye to soothe irritation and deliver relief – helping to refresh and rehydrate it.
The benefits of eye wash
Eye wash can be a useful tool when something is irritating your eye, potentially providing instant relief for what can be a distracting or painful problem. These washes can be used throughout the day to remove particles that get into your eye or simply to refresh your vision. Being able to soothe the irritation of dry eyes while working in air conditioning or looking at screens can be a big relief, and it can even help to improve people’s productivity and effectiveness in the workplace.
Eye washes can also be important if you get something dangerous in your eye, such as a detergent.
How to use an eye bath
When using any eye wash, always read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully first. These solutions usually come in a bottle and they are sometimes provided with a small plastic eye bath.
Before you use an eye bath, make sure your hands are clean and dry and then carefully rinse the small plastic bath out with some of the solution. You can then add eye wash to the bath until it’s roughly a third full. Next, tip your head forward slightly while holding the eye bath from beneath. Gently but firmly place the bath over your eye, then slowly lift your head while opening up your eye, allowing the eye wash to flow inside and over it. For 30 seconds or more tilt your head slightly from side to side, flushing your eye. Remove the eye bath from your eye and get rid of any wash remaining in the bath. Repeat this method for your other eye if affected as well.
Check the instructions carefully if you’re wearing contact lenses. Depending on the eye wash you’re using, you may be able to keep your contacts in while going through the above steps. Choosing a product that allows you to do this can make the task much simpler.
How to wash a baby’s eyes
Washing a baby’s eyes takes extra care. Often, with a little time, natural tears will wash out an irritant on their own, but if necessary you can help this process along.
If their eye becomes irritated by anything from an eyelash or fibre to dust and dirt, it can quickly become inflamed and irritated. Providing relief as fast as possible will be your main priority and a warm cloth can be a good place to start. Place a clean, folded cloth that’s been dampened with warm water over the eye. The mixture of moisture and warmth will encourage natural tears from the baby’s eye that can wash the foreign matter away.
If you wish to use eye drops, make sure you choose a product that’s recommended for use on infants. Before administering the drops, always wash your hands. Next, get your baby into position. You can do this by either tilting their head back or lying them on their back. If possible, get someone else to hold your baby in a safe position so that you can focus on giving the drops. It might also help to use a light blanket or sheet to keep their legs and arms still. Once you’re ready, gently pull down your baby’s lower eyelid and administer the drops, making sure you avoid touching the eye with the dropper. Then release the lower eyelid. As your baby blinks, the drops will be dispersed around their eye. You can then wipe away any excess wash with a clean tissue.
Just like adults, when babies have an irritant in their eyes, they will want to rub at them. Swaddling them to ensure they can’t reach them with their hands can be a helpful method of preventing them from harming their eyes even more.
Can you wash your eyes with salt water?
If you don’t have access to an eye wash, you might be wondering if you could use a salt water solution instead. Our tears are naturally saline, so this can be an effective way of cleaning and soothing them. Salt is also naturally antimicrobial, which makes it effective against eye infections.
However, while homemade remedies are an option, a store-bought eye wash solution tends to be safer and more convenient. These pre-prepared solutions cut out the stress of getting the right ratio of salt to water – a task made all the more difficult when you’re struggling with an irritated eye and your vision isn’t at its best.
Our eyes are resilient but sensitive organs, so it’s important never to risk putting something in them that you’re not completely sure is safe.