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Foreign object in the eye: First aid

If you get a foreign object in your eye

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Try to flush the object out of your eye with a gentle stream of clean, warm water. Use an eyecup or a small, clean drinking glass positioned with its rim resting on the bone at the base of your eye socket.
  • Another way to flush a foreign object from your eye is to get into a shower and aim a gentle stream of lukewarm water on your forehead over the affected eye while holding your eyelid open.
  • If you're wearing contact lenses, it's best to remove the lens before or while you're irrigating the surface of the eye with water. Sometimes a foreign body can be embedded on the undersurface of the lens.

To help someone else

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Seat the person in a well-lighted area.
  • Gently examine the eye to find the object. Pull the lower lid down and ask the person to look up. Then hold the upper lid while the person looks down.
  • If the object is floating in the tear film on the surface of the eye, try using a medicine dropper filled with clean, warm water to flush it out. Or tilt the head back and irrigate the surface of the eye with clean water from a drinking glass or a gentle stream of tap water.


  • Don't try to remove an object that's embedded in the eye.
  • Don't rub the eye.
  • Don't try to remove a large object that appears to be embedded in the eye or is sticking out between the lids.

When to seek emergency care

Get immediate medical help if:

  • You can't remove the object with simple irrigation
  • The object is embedded in the eye
  • The person with the object in the eye is experiencing abnormal vision
  • Pain, redness or the sensation of an object in the eye persists after the object is removed

Last updated: February 10th, 2015

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