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First aid

Eye - foreign body

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First Aid - Eyelids - Glass On
First Aid - Eyelids - Glass On

First Aid - FB in Eye
First Aid - FB in Eye

First Aid - FB in Corner of Eye
First Aid - FB in Corner of Eye

First Aid - FB Under Lower Eyelid
First Aid - FB Under Lower Eyelid

First Aid - FB Under Upper Eyelid
First Aid - FB Under Upper Eyelid

  • A foreign body (FB) or object becomes lodged in the eye
  • The main symptoms are irritation, pain, tearing and blinking

General Information

  • Foreign bodies in the eye need to be removed, as they can damage the eye.
  • The most common objects that get in the eye are an eyelash or a piece of dried mucus ("sleep").  Particulate matter such as sand, dirt, sawdust, or grit can be blown into the eyes. Tree and plant pollen can also get blown into the eyes.
  • Rubbing the eye can lead to the foreign object scratching the cornea (clear part in center of eye).

If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • You think you have a serious injury
  • Sharp FB (Foreign Body)
  • FB is a piece of chemical (First Aid: flush eye immediately with water)
  • FB hit eye at high speed (e.g., metallic chip from hammering, lawnmower, explosion)
  • FB is stuck on the eyeball (Caution: do not attempt to remove)
  • FB feels like it's still present after eye has been washed out
  • Cloudy spot on the cornea (clear center part of the eye)
  • Pain or blurred vision are present after the eye has been washed out
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think you need to be seen
  • Yellow or green pus occurs
Self Care at Home If
  • Minor foreign body in the eye and you don't think you need to be seen
  • Contact lens stuck in the eye and you don't think you need to be seen

Removing a Foreign Body from the Eye
  1. Treatment for Numerous Particles (such as dirt or sand):
    • Clean around the eye with a wet washcloth first.
    • Try to open and close the eye repeatedly while submerging that side of the face in a pan of water.
  2. Treatment for a Particle in a Corner of the Eye: Try to get it out with a moistened cotton swab or the corner of a moistened cloth.
  3. Treatment for a Particle Under the Lower Lid:
    • Pull the lower lid out by pulling down on the skin over the cheek bone.
    • Touch the particle with a moistened cotton swab.
    • If that doesn't work, try pouring water on the speck while pulling the lower lid out.
  4. Treatment for a Particle Under the Upper Lid:
    • If particle cannot be seen, it is probably under the upper lid, the most common hiding place.
    • Try to open and close the eye several times while it is submerged in a pan or bowl of water. Or turn your head to the side and flush the eye using the faucet.
    • If this fails, pull the upper lid out and draw it over the lower lid. This maneuver, and tears, will sometimes dislodge the particle. By doing this the lower eye lashes may sweep the particle out from under the upper eye lid.
  5. Expected Course: The discomfort, redness and excessive tearing usually pass 1 to 2 hours after the foreign body is removed.
  6. Contacts: Patients with contact lenses need to switch to glasses temporarily (Reason: to prevent damage to the cornea).
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • This approach does not remove all the foreign material from the eye (i.e., the sensation of "grittiness" or pain persists).
    • Vision does not return to normal after the eye has been irrigated.
    • Foreign object has been removed, but tearing and blinking persist.
    • You become worse.
Removing a Contact Lens
  1. Wash Your Hands: Your first step will be to wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Moisten the Contact Lens:
    • Place several drops of saline into the eye.
    • You may need to repeat this in 5 minutes. (Reason: hydrates soft contacts; helps lubricate and float soft and hard contacts)
  3. Removing a Soft Contact Lens:
    • Look upwards
    • Pull down your lower eyelid with your middle finger.
    • Touch contact lens with your index finger and slide the lens downwards to the lower white part of your eye.
    • Gently pinch the contact lens between your thumb and index finger and remove it from your eye.
  4. Removing a Hard Contact Lens - Blink Method:
    • Pull outwards on the skin at the corner of the eye (Right index finger for right eye; left index finger for left eye)
    • Cup your other hand under the eye to catch the contact lens.
    • Blink several times.
  5. Removing a Hard Contact Lens - Plunger Method
    • Use a contact lens "plunger" to remove the contact lens.
    • If you do not have one, you can get one at a local pharmacy. This is a small flexible plastic tool that has a suction cup on it.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Unable to remove the contact lens
    • Pain or foreign body sensation lasts more than 2 hours after removing the contact lens.
    • You become worse.

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: David A. Thompson, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 1/19/2009

Last Revised: 12/20/2008

Content Set: Adult HouseCalls Online

Portions Copyright 2000-2009 Self Care Decisions LLC; Copyright LMS, Inc.

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