What to Do if You Get Something in Your Eye

When you get something in your eye, you may feel an impulse to rub furiously until the dust or dirt is gone. Don't.

Rubbing the eyelid can drag foreign bodies across the cornea. This will increase irritation and possibly scratch the cornea. The cornea, the clear portion of the eye covering the iris and pupil, has lots of nerve endings and is very sensitive. Scratching the cornea can cause unbearable pain, as many contact lens wearers know. In addition, vigorous rubbing may imbed foreign particles in the cornea or conjunctiva, the covering of the the white portion of the eyeball. This may result in further complications.

If a foreign body is imbedded in the conjunctiva or cornea, you should not try to remove it. A scratched cornea and a foreign body are conditions that need to be treated by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. Attempts to remove foreign bodies without the correct equipment and skill are hardly ever effective. They often make the problem worse.

Here are several tips you should know if you get something in your eye:

  • If the material is dirt or a dust particle, try blinking your eyes quickly. This may free the object.

  • Have a friend examine your eye to locate the material and determine if it can be easily removed.

  • Wet the eye with artificial tears or normal saline fluid.

  • Pull the upper lid down and out over the lower lid and let it slide back. This may be enough to free the object.

  • If none of these approaches works, and the object remains stuck in your eye, you may need to seek medical attention. When a healthcare provider removes an object from the eye, the eye is numbed and a probe is used to free the material. If a scratch is left after the object is removed, the healthcare provider might put a patch on the eye until it heals.

  • If you get chemicals in your eye, immediately wash the eye with fresh water. Wetting the eye may be enough to remove a mild irritant from the eye. If a corrosive chemical, like an acid, or a base, like lye, gets into the eye, you will need medical attention even after you flush the eye thoroughly with water.

If your vision is blurred or you feel pain after removing a chemical — or any other object — from your eye, see your healthcare provider.