Dealing with a Foreign Object in the Eye

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This leaflet is created from first aid advice provided by St John Ambulance, the nation's leading first aid charity. This advice is no substitute for first aid training - find a training course near you.

A speck of dust, a loose eyelash, or even a contact lens can float on the white of the eye.

Usually, such objects can easily be rinsed off. However, you must not touch anything that sticks to the eye, penetrates the eyeball, or rests on the coloured part of the eye (iris and pupil) because this may damage the eye. Instead, make sure the person gets medical attention quickly.

There may be:

  • Blurred vision.
  • Pain or discomfort.
  • Redness and watering of the eye.
  • Eyelids screwed up in spasm.

Your aim is to prevent injury to the eye.

  • Sit the person down facing the light.
  • Stand behind the person and gently separate the eyelids with your finger and thumb.
  • Ensure you examine every part of the eye; ask the person to look up, down, left and right.
  • If you can see an object on the white of the eye:
    • Wash it out with clean water poured from a glass or a sterile eye-wash bath.
    • Incline the person's head towards the injured side and place a towel or pad on the shoulder.
    • Pour the water from the bridge of the nose allowing it to run through and flush the eye out.
    • If this is unsuccessful then lift the object off the white of the eye with a moist swab, the damp corner of a tissue or a clean hanky, for example.
    • If this is still unsuccessful then seek medical help.
  • Ask the person to pull the upper lid down over the lower lid.
  • The lower lashes may brush the object clear.

Do not touch anything that is sticking to or embedded in the eyeball or the iris, the coloured part of the eye.

  • Place an eye pad over the eye.
  • Take or send the person to hospital.

Note: these hints are no substitute for thorough knowledge of first aid. St John Ambulance holds first aid courses throughout the country.

Adapted from the St John Ambulance leaflet: eye injuries. Copyright for this leaflet is with St John Ambulance.

Original Author:
St John Ambulance
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
St John Ambulance
Document ID:
28659 (v1)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
Now read about Corneal Foreign Bodies, Injuries and Abrasions

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