Q. What's the safest thing to do if a child gets sand in the eyes at the beach?
A. "The key is no rubbing," says Dr. Steven Rubin, co-chief of pediatric ophthalmology and strabismus at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. "Rubbing can drive a grain of sand deeper into the cornea and make it more difficult to remove. If it gets embedded in the cornea, it requires manipulation by a medical doctor to get it out."
The cornea covers the iris; its role is to protect the eye from infection. "The cornea is exquisitely sensitive," Rubin says. Try to get to a sink with running water and flush the water over the eye, he advises. Consider adding a squirt bottle filled with clean tap water to your beach bag arsenal so you're prepared if a child gets sand blown or kicked into the eyes.
Encourage the child to repeatedly blink. "That will stimulate tear production," Rubin says. Crying is also a good thing, he says.
Don't use ocean water to flush the eye, because the saltwater will sting. Ditto for pool water. Enlist lifeguards or beach first aid stations for help, if necessary.
If the eye is persistently red and the child still feels there's something in there, see a pediatrician, emergency room physician or ophthalmologist, Rubin says. A doctor can remove anything and prescribe antibiotic drops to prevent eye infection, he says.
The same flushing technique is advised for suntan lotion that gets in the eyes, Rubin says.