Sore eyes can occur unexpectedly, find out about the causes


Man itching his eyes

Unexpected Eye Irritants

It can be easy to get something in your eye that causes irritation. When it happens, you can think of almost nothing else, other than clearing your eye, and can't rest until you've achieved it. So let's have a look at a few things to watch out for that can cause eye irritation - maybe they're not always what we might expect.

Foreign bodies and substances in your eye

Typically, eye irritants might be things like an eyelash, a speck of sand or dust or a grain of pollen. However, care should be taken with eye make-up, which can get into your eyes if you "miss" by being distracted while putting it on, or if you rub your eyes and dislodge some.

But when going outdoors, caution should be taken. Pollen grains can be a source of eye irritation. Watch out for tiny bits of foliage. Tree bark or other plant material can blow into your eyes if it's windy, particularly when fields have been ploughed or freshly cut. Walking down a country road, where traffic may pass by you closely, could whip up loose foliage pieces into your eyes too. So take good care.



Food? Surely this goes into my mouth, you're asking? However, what about the experience with chopping onions?

Juices from various foods can squirt into your eyes and cause irritation. So go carefully when chopping lemons and other citrus fruits. Take particular care with chillies. The key thing to look out for here is not to touch your eyes after cutting up a chilli. Minutes or even hours after handling them, it’s easy to forget and rub your eyes. Then suddenly it's not just irritating - it's downright painful and stings like crazy. So make yourself a rule to wash your hands thoroughly, immediately after the chilli chopping is done.


Doing some DIY

Sawdust is an obvious possibility here, which is why it's so important to wear protective goggles. Your DIY workspace may often have drops of oil, cleaners, white spirit, wood stains, paint and the like dripped here and there. You may easily put a finger on a tiny drop of these without realising it and then rub your eyes. So always check what might be on the surface you're about to touch or lean on. Don’t forget your protective goggles.


Other people's infections

If you get asked to "take a look at" your child's or family member's eye because it's irritating, always wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. You don't want to transfer any infection they may have to your fingers and then to your own eyes, should you subconsciously rub them soon afterwards. Lots of different infections are associated with the symptoms of eye irritation, such as conjunctivitis or blepharitis. If in doubt, just look, don't touch and get a medical opinion if needs be.


Fires and barbeques

Do you have a log fire or log burner? A piece of ash could easily get into your eye if you aren't careful when cleaning it out. Perform this operation gently and keep the dust down. Likewise when cleaning a barbeque, especially if it's windy outside. Make sure when you're cleaning it out, or turning the charcoal, that the wind won't blow ash or charcoal pieces directly into your eyes.

Many things that can cause eye irritation may also cause damage to the surface of your eye. Although it's a natural reaction to want to rub your eyes, try to remember that you're potentially rubbing an irritant onto and into your eye. Scratches to the surface of the eye can lead to infections.