Safety First: Treating Welder’s Flash and How to Avoid It

welder setting up plasma cutter

Welding Buddy Experts

April 26, 2022
treating welders flash - Metal fabricator with an irritated eye

As evidenced by all the types of safety equipment you have to wear, metal fabrication is a dangerous field. It poses risks to your health that you won't encounter in any other field. Despite this, however, the craft remains a very rewarding endeavor. The metal fabrication projects you will complete make this all the more worth it.

According to the latest statistics on occupational hazards, welding-related accidents comprise around 25% of the total number of workplace accidents in the United States. One of the most common welding accidents is flash burn (also known as welder's flash, welder's eye, and arc eye.). Without proper eye protection, you put yourself at high risk of this welding injury.

Read more to learn about treating welder’s flash!

What Is a Welder’s Flash (Arc Eye)?

One Canadian study says that 21% of welding injuries are eye-related accidents. Evidently, one of the most common welding injuries is a welder's flash. Also known as photokeratitis, welder's flash happens when your eyes become exposed to extremely bright flashes. Usually, these bright flashes come from the welding arcs generated by welding torches.

Unlike your light bulbs at home, welding arcs have high amounts of UV radiation which is very harmful to your eyes. The UV radiation causes severe damage to the thin outer layer of the cornea. When this happens, the corneal nerves become exposed and damaged, causing a painful, sunburn-like condition.

What Should I Do After Getting Welder’s Flash (Welding Flash)?

The moment you become exposed to harmful UV light from your welding torch, you should seek and apply first aid. The first thing you have to do is to turn off the light source or get away from it. You should take off your contact lenses if you have them on. If you have a bottle of saline solution in your first aid kit, flush your eyes with it. Otherwise, use water.

After applying first aid, you should go to a doctor for medical assistance. Once at home, you can help your eyes recover by pampering your sensitive eyes. Self-care for your eyes includes wearing sunglasses to lessen the burden on your affected eyes. You can also buy an eye lubricant or eye drops for your eyes to help them remain moisturized which may reduce the pain.

How to Cure Welder’s Flash?

treating welders flash - Worker touching one of his eyes

If you're looking for medicine for welder’s flash, you may want to try the following home remedies first. Home remedies can have varying effects from one person to another but can help you save money instead of buying over-the-counter medications. However, do note that if you're able, seek the assistance of a medical professional.

Potato and Washcloth

While this home remedy, like most home remedies, is not scientifically proven to work, some people do this method to alleviate the pain coming from a welder's flash or eye burn. To do this home remedy, you need three things: a potato, water, and a washcloth. Doing this trick may reduce the itchiness that stems from a welder's flash.

  1. Peel the potato and slice it into smaller pieces. 
  2. Then, soak the washcloth in water and wring it so that it stops dripping.
  3. Place the sliced potatoes into a damp washcloth in two piles next to each other.
  4. Wrap the potatoes with the washcloth and store it inside the fridge for a few minutes.
  5. Take it out of the fridge and put it on your eyes for around 15 minutes.

Milk and Cotton Ball

This home remedy may sound odd, but if you have access to breast milk, you can take advantage of its components for relieving pain from a welder's flash. Breast milk contains lactoferrin, oligosaccharides, and other healthy fatty acids which can help address the dryness of the eye. However, cow’s milk can work in a pinch. In experiments, lactoferrin from cow’s milk helped heal the cornea.

  1. Gather the things you will need: a cotton ball, a washcloth, and cow milk.
  2. Dip the cotton ball in the cow milk.
  3. Take the milk-soaked cotton ball and use it on the affected eye.
  4. Leave the cotton ball on your eye for a few minutes.
  5. Wipe your eyes clean with a damp washcloth.

Green and Chamomile Tea

Care for a cup of tea? Whether you're a coffee person or a tea person, you can use a used tea bag to treat your welder's flash. Particularly, green tea and chamomile tea possess properties that can alleviate the pain from a welder's flash and hasten the recovery process. For instance, tannins from green tea help treat conjunctivitis among other eye-related problems.

  1. Enjoy a cup of green or chamomile tea.
  2. Take the tea bag and put it inside a refrigerator.
  3. Once it cools down and dries up, take it out of the fridge.
  4. Put it on the afflicted eye for a few minutes.

Tried and Tested Ice Pack

Whether you have a sprain or a bruise, you can always rely on an ice pack. Likewise, you can use an ice pack to reduce the pain and inflammation caused by eye-related injuries, including a welder's flash. All you have to do is to take out an ice pack from your fridge and put it on the affected eye.

How to Protect Yourself From Welder’s Flash?

treating welders flash - Metal fabricator with a welding helmet on flashing an OK sign

When pursuing a hazardous profession or a risky interest such as metal fabrication, buying and wearing proper safety equipment should be your top priority. Many welders invest in cutting-edge welder machines but skimp out on safety gear. Substandard safety gear can lead to more risks and accidents like welding burns. Never pick the cheapest option and buy the best you can afford.

You can reduce the likelihood of getting a welder's flash by having a properly fitted welding helmet. When it comes to welding helmets, you have a myriad of options. For instance, there are auto-darkening helmets that can turn on the shade at the exact moment you turn the welding torch on. Once you purchase the welding helmet of your choice, never be complacent and skip wearing it when working on your metal fabrication projects.

Final Thoughts

Many risks and dangers are involved in metal fabrication. That's why investing in welding helmets and following safety guidelines are non-negotiable. When the worst comes and you accidentally damage your eyes, fret not because treating welder’s flash at home can help you relieve pain and recover.

Put a premium on your safety as you work on your metal fabrication projects. Check out our other safety gear reviews to discover more protective equipment!

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