Corneal Abrasion (Child)

The cornea is the clear part in front of the eye. If the cornea becomes scratched, the injury is called a corneal abrasion. Corneal abrasions cause severe eye pain, inability to open the eye, blurred vision, watery eyes, and sensitivity to light. The eye may become red and swollen.

A corneal abrasion can occur when something gets into the eye, such as dirt or sand,. Or it can happen if a fingernail or other object pokes or scratches the eye. The injured eye is treated with numbing drops, then checked and rinsed. Eye drops and ointment may be used for pain or to prevent infection. Pain medicine may also be used. A superficial corneal injury in a young child usually heals overnight. The eye is considered healed if the child is happy to keep it open. Deeper corneal injuries may take longer to heal.

Home care


  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe eye drops or an ointment to help the injury heal and to prevent infection. The healthcare provider may also prescribe pain medicine. Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions when using these medicines. Eye ointment may cause blurry vision. Apply ointment right before your child goes to sleep.

  • If both drops and ointment are prescribed, give the drops first. Wait 3 minutes, then apply the ointment. Doing this will give each medicine time to work.

  • Place eye drops, if they were prescribed, in the corner of the eye where the eyelid meets the nose. The medicine will pool in this area. When your child opens the lid, the medicine will flow into the eye.

  • Apply ointment, if it was prescribed, by gently pulling down the lower lid. Place the prescribed amount of ointment on the inside of the lid. After closing the lid, wipe away excess medicine from the nose area outward to keep the eyes as clean as possible.

General care

  • Shield your child’s eyes when in direct sunlight to avoid irritation.

  • Try to prevent your child from rubbing the eye. Rubbing slows healing.

  • To prevent future injury to the eyes, keep your fingernails and your child’s nails short. Keep all pointed objects away from your child.

  • Watch the eye for signs of infection (see below).

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised. Corneal abrasions may be referred to a pediatric eye specialist (ophthalmologist).

Special note to parents

Eye medicines may make your child’s vision blurry for a while. Any discomfort can be reduced by giving medicine before bedtime.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:

  • If your usually healthy child has a fever (see Fever and children, below)

  • Signs of infection, such as increased redness and swelling, or bad-smelling drainage from the eye

  • Continuing or increasing pain

  • Unwillingness to keep eyes open

Fever and children

Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds and uses of digital thermometers. They include:

  • Rectal. For children younger than 3 years, a rectal temperature is the most accurate.

  • Forehead (temporal). This works for children age 3 months and older. If a child under 3 months old has signs of illness, this can be used for a first pass. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Ear (tympanic). Ear temperatures are accurate after 6 months of age, but not before.

  • Armpit (axillary). This is the least reliable but may be used for a first pass to check a child of any age with signs of illness. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Mouth (oral). Don’t use a thermometer in your child’s mouth until he or she is at least 4 years old.

Use the rectal thermometer with care. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. Insert it gently. Label it and make sure it’s not used in the mouth. It may pass on germs from the stool. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, ask the healthcare provider what type to use instead. When you talk with any healthcare provider about your child’s fever, tell him or her which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your young child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare provider may give you different numbers for your child. Follow your provider’s specific instructions.

Fever readings for a baby under 3 months old:

  • First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

Fever readings for a child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):

  • Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher

Call the healthcare provider in these cases:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher in a child of any age

  • Fever of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher in baby younger than 3 months

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2

  • Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older

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