Children's Hospital Colorado

Eye - Foreign Body or Object

Urgent or Emergency Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.

Help Me Decide

  • A foreign body or object becomes stuck in the eye
  • Also included are small particles such as dirt
  • The main symptoms are irritation, pain, tears, and blinking

Types of Foreign Objects in the Eye

  • Blowing Dust. Small particles such as sand, dirt, sawdust, or other grit. Can be blown into the eye on a windy day.
  • Eyelash. An eyelash is a common finding.
  • Dry Mucus. A loose piece of dried mucus (sleep) can feel like something is in the eye.
  • Sharp Object (Serious). A piece of glass from a shattered glass ornament is an example.
  • High Speed Objects (Serious) such as a metal chip from a hammer or lawnmower. A plastic fragment or small rock thrown from a weed-wacker are other examples.

Go to ER Now

  • Sharp object in the eye
  • Object is a piece of chemical
  • Object hit eye at high speed. Examples are a metal chip from hammering, lawnmower, or explosion.
  • Object stuck on the eyeball (Caution: do not try to take it out)
  • Tearing and blinking don't go away after eye has been washed out
  • You can't get the object out

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • Child feels like object still there after eye has been washed out
  • Vision not back to normal after eye has been washed out
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Yellow or green pus occurs
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Minor object or small particles in the eye (such as an eyelash or dirt). Reason: Most likely can be removed at home.

Care Advice for an Object or Small Particles in the Eye

  1. What You Should Know About An Object or Small Particles in the Eye:
    • The object (or particles) will always stay in the front part of the eye.
    • Some parents worry that it can get lost behind the eyeball.
    • This will not happen. The space beyond the eyelids goes back ¼ inch (6 mm) and then stops. In other words, it's a dead end.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Lots of Particles (such as Dirt or Sand) - Treatment:
    • Clean around the eye and face with a wet washcloth first. Reason: So more particles won't get in.
    • Put that side of the face in a pan of warm water. Have your child try to open and close the eye while in the water. Do it several times.
    • For younger children, 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 rinsing. This process often needs the help of another person.
  3. Particle in a Corner of the Eye - Treatment:
    • Try to get it out.
    • Use a moistened cotton swab or the corner of a moistened cloth.
  4. Particle Under the Lower Lid - Treatment:
    • Pull the lower lid out by pulling down on the skin above the cheekbone.
    • Touch the particle with a moistened cotton swab.
    • If that doesn't work, try pouring water on the particle. Do this while holding the lid out.
  5. Particle Under the Upper Lid - Treatment:
    • If the particle can't be seen, it's probably under the upper lid. This is 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. Then, draw it over the lower lid while the eye is closed. When the eye is opened, the particle may come out. The lower lid may sweep the particle out from under the upper lid.
  6. Contact Lenses:
    • Children who wear contact lenses need to switch to glasses for a while.
    • Reason: To prevent damage to the cornea.
  7. What to Expect:
    • The pain, redness and tearing usually pass after the object is removed.
    • It may take 1 to 2 hours for these symptoms to fully go away.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You can't get the object or particles out
    • Feels like object is still there 2 hours after taken out
    • Tearing and blinking do not stop after you take out the object
    • Vision is not normal after the eye has been washed out
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Care Advice for an Object or Small Particles in the Eye

First Aid - Many Particles in Eye
  • Clean around the eye with a wet washcloth first.
  • Place the face under a gently running faucet or a shower. Hold the eyelid open while you do this.
  • Or, try to open and close the eye repeatedly while submerging that side of the face in a pan of water.
First Aid - Foreign Object in Corner of Eye
  • Try to get the particle out with a moistened cotton swab or the corner of a moistened cloth.
  • If this does not work, then place the face under a gently running faucet or a shower. Hold the eyelids open while you do this. This should flush the particle out.
First Aid - Foreign Object Under Lower Eyelid
  • Pull the lower eyelid out by depressing the skin above the cheekbone.
  • Touch the particle with a moistened cotton swab.
  • If that does not work, try pouring water on the speck while pulling the lower eyelid out.
First Aid - Foreign Object Under Upper Eyelid
  • If particle cannot be seen, it's probably under the upper lid, the most common hiding place.
  • Try to open and close the eye several times while it is submerged in a pan or bowl of water.
  • If this fails, pull the upper lid out and draw it over the lower lid. This maneuver and tears will sometimes dislodge the particle.
First Aid - Eyelids - Glass On
  • Method 1: Bend forward and close the eyes. Have someone blow on the closed eyelids to get the flakes of glass off the skin.
  • Method 2: Another technique is to touch the flakes of glass with a piece of tape. See drawing.
  • To get off any remaining glass, splash water on the eyelids and face. Cover the eyes with a wet washcloth. Do not rub the eyes.

Disclaimer

The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your child's doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

The search for nearby emergency and urgent care facilities is based upon Google search parameters. You will get results based on how facilities manage their website information.

By using this website, you accept the information provided herein "AS IS." Neither publishers nor the providers of the information contained herein will have any liability to you arising out of your use of the information contained herein or make any expressed or implied warranty regarding the accuracy, content, completeness, reliability, or efficacy of the information contained within this website.

Copyright 1994-2017 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC. All rights reserved.

Related departments

Eye


PRODWEBSERVER1