- Welding without a mask, even briefly, can cause serious eye and skin damage from UV flash burns.
- Immediately put your mask back on and keep it on to prevent further damage. Block all reflected flashes.
- Apply high SPF sunscreen and moisturizing lotion to protect and soothe skin.
- Use OTC eye drops for relief; see a doctor for prescription drops if needed.
- Prepare for a painful night – have eye drops, cold compresses, and sleep aids ready.
- See a doctor promptly if you experience severe, lasting symptoms. Protect yourself going forward.
Got No Time? A Quick Answer for you:
Welding without a proper mask, even briefly, can inflict serious burns on your eyes and skin from the intense UV light. If this happens, immediately put your mask back on and keep it on to prevent further damage. Also be sure to block any reflected flashes from other welders.
Apply high SPF sunscreen and moisturizing lotion to soothe and protect your skin. Use over-the-counter eye drops for some relief, or see a doctor for prescription eye drops if symptoms are severe. Prepare for a painful night by having eye drops, cold compresses, and sleep aids on hand. See a doctor promptly if pain and symptoms persist more than a couple days. And above all, take steps to fully protect yourself when welding in the future.
What To Do After Welding Without a Mask
As welders, we know that protective equipment like masks and gloves are essential for our safety. But in the push to get projects done, it can be tempting to take shortcuts – like looking away “just for a second” while making a tack weld. I’ve been guilty of this myself. And I can tell you from painful experience that even brief welding flashes without adequate eye and face protection can inflict serious damage.
Pro Tip: Don’t learn this lesson the hard way like I did. If you weld without a mask, even briefly, take action right away to care for your eyes and skin and prevent lasting harm.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share what I’ve learned about dealing with the aftermath of welding without a proper mask. Follow these five tips to relieve discomfort, promote healing, and avoid lasting problems:
1. Keep that mask on!
If you realize you’ve been welding without your helmet, your first move is to put that mask back on and commit to keeping it on. I know, you’ll likely be tempted to “tough it out” and finish what you started bare-faced. Don’t give in. Every additional second of exposure magnifies the damage.
Shield your eyes and skin from any further UV flash burns by wearing your mask diligently. Make sure it’s fitted and adjusted correctly to maximize coverage. This will help minimize the impacts of your mistake.
👷 Editor Note: You might think flipping your hood up for “just a couple tacks” won’t hurt. From personal experience, it will. Protect your eyes and skin throughout the entire project.
Prevent Reflected Flashes: You can also get burned by UV flashes reflecting off walls or other surfaces around you. Be sure to put up welding screens or barriers to block these secondary flashes. Wearing a helmet with side shields can also help. Protect yourself fully, even if you aren’t the one welding.
2. Use Skin Lotions and Sun Protection
Welding flash can inflict serious burns on exposed skin just like a bad sunburn. Take steps to soothe and protect your skin right away:
- Apply High SPF Sunscreen: Before welding, apply sunscreen with an SPF 100 or higher on any exposed skin. This provides some protection if you have a mask slip-up. Reapply frequently since welding UV quickly breaks it down.
- Moisturize Burnt Skin: If you do get a flash burn, treat it like a bad sunburn. Apply aloe vera gel immediately to soothe. Follow up with a heavy moisturizing lotion to heal damage and replenish moisture.
- Use Skin Healing Cream: A stronger medicated cream like Silvadene can also relieve pain and stimulate skin healing after a flash burn. This is available over-the-counter or by prescription.
- See A Doctor If Needed: For severe skin burns or blistering, seek medical attention promptly. Skin grafts or other treatment may be needed for deeper burns. Don’t take chances with your skin.
👷 Pro Tip: Wearing flame-retardant shirts and leathers protects your skin as well as normal clothes. Treat any exposed areas diligently.
3. Use Eye Drops for Relief
Your eyes take the brunt of UV damage from welding without a helmet. Promptly treat them with moisturizing drops and see a doctor if symptoms are severe:
- OTC Eye Drops: Drops like Refresh or Systane provide moisture and soothing relief if your eyes feel “gritty” and irritated. The cooling effect can temper pain. Follow package directions.
- Prescription Eye Drops: For more severe flash burn symptoms like pain, light sensitivity, swelling or vision changes, see an optometrist or ophthalmologist right away. They can provide stronger prescription eye drops to reduce inflammation and discomfort.
- Alternative Eye Relief: Some welders report relief using natural alternatives like breast milk or raw potato slices applied to the eyes. But OTC and prescription drops are safest.
- 🤓 Pro Tip: Don’t take prescription eye drops more often than directed, as overuse can potentially cause further eye damage. Use only as prescribed.
4. See a Doctor Promptly If Needed
With prompt treatment, most eye and skin flash burn symptoms resolve within a few days. But if you experience any of the following, see a doctor right away:
- Severe, lasting pain or light sensitivity in your eyes
- Vision problems like blurriness, loss of acuity, or distorted sight
- Persistent redness, swelling, oozing, blistering or peeling of the skin
- Changes in skin coloration or appearance
Don’t hesitate to call your doctor’s office, visit an urgent care clinic, or even go to the ER in cases of severe welding flash burns. The doctor can assess your symptoms, provide prescription treatment options, and refer you to a specialist like an ophthalmologist or dermatologist for serious burns or damage.
Catching issues early improves outcomes and reduces risks of lasting problems. Better safe than sorry!
5. Prepare for a Painful Night
If you do sustain eye damage from welding without a helmet, brace yourself for a painful night. Flash burn pain often peaks 6-12 hours post-exposure as inflammation sets in. But you can take steps to minimize the suffering and promote rest:
- Have eye drops, cold compresses, pain meds, and sleep aids ready by your bedside. You want them close at hand when the discomfort flares up overnight.
- Try to sleep propped up on pillows to minimize swelling.
- Use moisturizing nighttime eye ointment before bed to lubricate and protect eyes.
- Place used teabags in the fridge then apply cold to closed eyes for relief. Cucumber slices also work.
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers as needed per directions.
- Mask daylight with blackout curtains or an eye mask to reduce painful light sensitivity.
- Drink lots of water and avoid alcohol, which dehydrates eyes and skin.
👷 Editor Note: I once suffered a whole restless, agonizing week after a bad arc eye burn. Don’t wait that long to see a doctor if symptoms are severe!
How to Avoid Repeat Mistakes
We all mess up sometimes. As welders, it’s inevitable we’ll get complacent and have a lapse in safety. Don’t beat yourself up endlessly about it. Just learn from the mistake, take steps to heal, and commit to staying safe going forward.
Here are some tips to avoid repeating errors like welding without your helmet:
- Adjust your hood for comfort and visibility – you’re less likely to flip it up. Auto-darkening lenses make this easier.
- Use cheater lenses and magnifying lenses to see your work clearly through the mask.
- Stop and reposition rather than peeking under the hood.
- Set up barriers to block UV reflections around your workspace.
- Take breaks and don’t rush even tedious welding tasks.
- Stick to your safety training and protocols on every project, small and large.
- Advocate for a shop culture of safety and call out unsafe behaviors.
Stay vigilant in protecting yourself from hazards like UV flash burns. No project deadline is worth permanent injury. Use all your protective gear, every time you strike an arc.
I learned the hard way that even a brief welding flash can cause serious eye and skin trauma without proper protection. But ignoring safety protocols and flipping up your hood for even a few seconds is never worth the risk.
If you do make that mistake, take quick action to care for your eyes and skin and prevent lasting damage. Keep that mask on, use sunscreen and moisturizers, take eye drops, and see a doctor promptly if symptoms are severe.
Prepare for some painful recovery time. And above all, take steps to improve your safety practices going forward. Your health and vision should never be compromised for convenience or haste. Stay safe out there welders!