Removal of Foreign Bodies from the Eye
Nothing is more troublesome nor so often experienced by firemen than irritation of the eyes by the presence of a foreign body. In the days of the old steam fire engine, especially, now happily almost past, it was and is, not uncommon for sparks from the engine to find resting places in the eyes of the crews. This is particularly objectionable, although one does not mind taking the risk of providing lodgings in the eyes for sparks, dust, etc., at actual outbreaks of fire. By a coincidence, foreign bodies in the eyes are often termed “fires,” probably because the effects of their presence are painful burning sensations, to which the eyes respond by copiously turning on the hose of tears.
“Tires” are found in different positions in the eyes and require special treatment according to their location. The lower lid is the most usual resting place. The upper lid and the clear part of the eye—cornea—also form involuntary stages for the passage of dust, granite, steel chips, cinders, etc., in their meteoric flight through the atmosphere. Generally, the sufferer’s sensations form a guide as to the actual location of the intruders. When the cornea is the seat of the injury the exact position of the foreign body may be clearly fixed by throwing the light of a lamp or candle obliquely over the front of the eye. Methods of dealing with and extracting foreign bodies from the three positions mentioned are as follows:
Lower Lid.—Pull down the lid with the thumb or finger and remove the ‘fire” with the corner of a soft handkerchief. Do not touch the eyeball if it can be avoided.
Upper Lid.—Should the foreign body lie just under the lid the best method of extraction is to avert or turn the eyelid upward over a lucifer or safety match stick, in order to bring the under surface of the lid to the front. The object may then be easily wiped off by the corner of a handkerchief. If the “fire” lie well up beneath the eyelid at the upper junction of the eyeball and lid the foregoing method will not suffice. The lid should be everted as before described, and a small soft camel-hair brush, if obtainable, or the corner of a clean silk handkerchief used to brush out the obstacle from beneath the upper portion of the lid. Sharp foreign bodies have a very unfortunate propensity of remaining where they first strike. Should this be, as it often is, the pupil on the dear part of the eye, it will cause great pain and annoyance. Great care must be exercised in removing the irritating object, for considerable injury may be caused by the unskilful, daring and dangerous surgery of a well-meaning but injudicious fellow-workman. A few drops of olive oil should be dropped in below the lids, the eye bandaged and the sufferer accompanied to a hospital or home for expert surgical treatment by a qualified practitioner.