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Eye Foreign Body in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

What is an eye foreign body (EFB)?

An EFB is an object that gets stuck in your child's eye. Tiny pieces of metal, dust, wood, and sand are the most common foreign bodies.

Eye Anatomy

What are the signs and symptoms of an EFB?

Your child may tell you that he or she feels something in his or her eye. Your child may also have any of the following:

  • Eye pain, redness, or watering
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision or changes in your child's vision

How is an EFB diagnosed?

The provider may check your child's vision by asking him or her to read letters or numbers off of a chart. Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and examine his or her eye. Your child may be given medicine to help him or her feel calm. The medicine will also make it easier for the provider to examine the eye. Your child may need any of the following:

  • A slit-lamp test uses a microscope to look into your child's eye and check for injury. A dye may be used to look for scratches or other damage to the eye.

  • Ultrasound or CT pictures may show where the foreign body is located in your child's eye. It may also show damage to deeper parts of your child's eye. Your child may be given contrast liquid to help the eye show up better in pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is an EFB treated?

Medicines will be given to decrease pain and prevent an infection. Your child's healthcare provider may numb your child's eye. If not already given during the exam, your child may now be given medicine to help him or her feel calm. The provider may flush the eye or use a cotton swab or other tools to help remove the FB. If the FB cannot be removed this way, your child will need surgery to remove it.

What can I do to help my child's eye heal?

  • Tell your child not to rub his or her eyes. This may cause more damage or infection.
  • Tell your child not wear his or her contacts lenses until the eye heals. He or she should wear glasses only. This will give your child's eyes time to heal.
  • Have your child wear sunglasses as directed. Sunglasses help protect the eye and decrease sensitivity to light.

What can I do to prevent another EFB?

  • Have your child wear protective eyewear. Your child should wear protective eyewear when he or she works with chemicals, metal, or wood. He or she should also wear protective eyewear during sports such as racquetball or swimming. Make sure the eyewear wraps around the sides of your child's face. Do not let your child use regular eye glasses for eye protection. They will not protect your child's eyes from foreign bodies or chemicals.
  • Make sure your child uses contact lenses as directed. Tell your child to wash his or her hands before he or she cleans, inserts, or removes contacts. Your child should insert and remove contact lenses correctly. Have your child clean and change contacts as directed to help prevent eye damage or infection.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child suddenly loses his or her vision.
  • Your child has severe eye pain.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child has new or worse eye swelling.
  • Your child's symptoms do not get better, even after the foreign body is removed.
  • Your child has white or yellow fluid draining from his or her eye.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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