Foreign Body in Eye

Symptom Definition

  • A foreign body (FB) or object becomes lodged in 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 cinders also can be blown into the eyes.
  • The main symptoms are irritation, pain, and tears.

See More Appropriate Topic

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • Sharp FB (Foreign Body)
  • The FB is a piece of chemical
  • FB hit eye at high speed (e.g. metallic chip from hammering, lawnmower, explosion)
  • FB stuck on the eyeball (Caution: do not attempt to remove)
  • FB feels like it’s still present after eye has been washed out
  • You want your child seen

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen

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 and you don’t think your child needs to be seen (Reason: probably can be removed at home)

Home Care Advice for Eye Foreign Bodies

  1. Treatment For Numerous Particles (such as dirt or sand)
    • Clean around the eye with a wet washcloth first.
    • Then have your child try to open and close the eye repeatedly while submerging that side of the face in a pan of water.
    • If your child is too young to cooperate with this, 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 irrigation and this usually requires the help of another person.
  2. Treatment for a Particle in a Corner of the Eye
    • Try to get it out with a moistened cotton swab, the corner of a moistened cloth, or a small piece of Scotch tape.
  3. Treatment for a Particle Under the Lower Lid
    • Pull the lower lid out by depressing the skin above the cheekbone.
    • Touch the particle with a moistened cotton swab.
    • If that doesn’t work, try pouring water on the speck while holding the lid out.
  4. Treatment for a Particle Under the Upper Lid.
    • If the particle can’t be seen, it’s probably under the upper lid, 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 and draw it over the lower lid. This maneuver, and tears, will sometimes dislodge the particle.
  5. Contacts: Children with contact lenses need to switch to glasses temporarily. (Reason: to prevent damage to the cornea)
  6. Expected Course: The discomfort, redness and excessive tearing usually pass 1 to 2 hours after the FB is removed.
  7. Call Your Doctor If
    • This approach does not remove all the foreign material from the eye (i.e., if 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.