Eye - Foreign Body  

This Care Guide Covers:

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

If not, see these topics
View First Aid Advice
  • First Aid Advice For Glass Fragments On The Eyelids

View images
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

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

When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • Sharp FB (Foreign Body)
  • FB is a piece of chemical. FIRST AID: Flush eye right away with water.
  • FB hit eye at high speed. Examples are a metal chip from hammering, lawnmower, or explosion.
  • FB stuck on the eyeball (Caution: do not try to take it out)
  • FB feels like it's still there after eye has been washed out
  • Vision not back to normal after eye has been washed out
  • Tearing and blinking don't go away after eye has been washed out
  • You can't get the FB out
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • Yellow or green pus occurs
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
  • Minor foreign body in the eye (such as eyelash or dirt). Reason: Most likely can be removed at home.
Causes & Health Information

Causes

  • The most common objects that get in the eye are an eyelash or a piece of dried mucus (sleep).  
  • Small particles such as sand, dirt, sawdust, or other grit also can be blown into the eyes.
CARE ADVICE FOR EYE FOREIGN BODY

  1. What You Should Know:
    • The foreign body will always stay in the front part of the eye.
    • Some parents worry that the foreign body can get lost behind the eyeball.
    • This will not happen. The space beyond the eyelids goes back ¼ inch (6 mm) and then stops. In other words, it's a dead end.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Treatment For Lots of Particles (such as dirt or sand):
    • Clean around the eye and face with a wet washcloth first. Reason: So more particles won't get in.
    • Put that side of the face in a pan of warm water. Have your child try to open and close the eye while in the water. Do it several times.
    • For younger children, fill a glass or pitcher with warm tap water. Pour the water into the eye while holding your child face up. The eyelids must be held open during the rinsing. This process often needs the help of another person.
  3. Treatment for a Particle in a Corner of the Eye:
    • Try to get it out.
    • Use a moistened cotton swab or the corner of a moistened cloth. You can also use a small piece of Scotch tape.
  4. Treatment for a Particle Under the Lower Lid:
    • Pull the lower lid out by pulling down on the skin above the cheekbone.
    • Touch the particle with a moistened cotton swab.
    • If that doesn't work, try pouring water on the particle. Do this while holding the lid out.
  5. Treatment for a Particle Under the Upper Lid:
    • If the particle can't be seen, it's probably under the upper lid. This is the most common hiding place.
    • Try having your child open and close the eye several times while it is submerged in a pan or bowl of water.  If you have an eye cup, use it.
    • If this fails, pull the upper lid out. Then, draw it over the lower lid while the eye is closed. When the eye is opened, the particle may come out. The lower lid may sweep the particle out from under the upper lid.
  6. Contact Lenses:
    • Children who wear contact lenses need to switch to glasses for a while.
    • Reason: To prevent damage to the cornea.
  7. What to Expect:
    • The pain, redness and tearing usually pass after the foreign body is removed.
    • It may take 1 to 2 hours for these symptoms to fully go away.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You can't get the FB out
    • Feels like FB is still there 2 hours after taken out
    • Tearing and blinking do not stop after you take out the FB
    • Vision is not normal after the eye has been washed out
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
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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: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/1/2012

Last Revised: 1/13/2013

Content Set: Child Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.