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Foreign Objects in Eye: What to Do

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Last Updated

Few things are as irritating as getting something stuck in your eye, and summertime adds to the list of possible irritants.

Beach sand, dirt from a ballfield, bugs that you encounter while hiking or biking are all real threats to make you uncomfortable in a hurry if they get in your eyes.

Here are some tips on how to handle foreign objects in your eyes as well as some things NOT to do.

Summer is here, and that means you’re likely going to spend more time outside enjoying the warm weather. All that time outdoors means more risk that you could get a foreign object in one of both of your eyes.

Sunscreen, beach sand, bugs, tree branches and dirt get added to the mix of things that can get in your eyes.

Let’s go through how to flush these little invaders out of your eyes and what to do next if flushing doesn’t work.

Signs You Have Something Stuck in Your Eye

It’s not hard to notice when you have something in your eye. Our eyes are sensitive, so much so than the tiniest stray eyelash can be irritating.

And when something bigger gets in—dirt from a nearby construction site or a baseball field or a small bug—the discomfort can be worse.

Signs that you have something stuck in your eye that may need attention:

  • You feel a sharp pain that’s more than just a little discomfort.
  • Your eye burns, and the burning lasts longer than a few minutes.
  • Your eye is watering.
  • Your eye is red from irritation.
  • Your vision is impacted (usually blurry).
  • You see signs of bleeding around the eye.

What Not to Do

When you get something stuck in your eye, the last thing you want to do is anything that can make the condition worse. This is smart advice. The problem is, the first thing most of us try to do when we get something in our eyes is try to get out ourselves. And get it out fast.

Unfortunately, the first reaction—rubbing your eye—is not the best one. If you don’t succeed, you’re going to make the solution worse.

Other actions not to take:

  • Don’t try to remove the objects by yourself. You risk damaging your eye if you do this and are not careful.
  • Don’t put liquids other than water or eye drops in your eyes.
  • Don’t use a strong stream of water, such as from a showerhead, to remove debris. The water pressure could increase the irritation. Worse, it could create longer-term harm to your eye.

Come Up with a Plan to Treat It

If you’re concerned that you have something foreign in your eye, it can be hard to know what the next step is. Here’s one plan to deal with the situation, depending on the severity:

  • Try to remove the irritant by gently rinsing your eye with water or eye drops. You can squeeze water from a washcloth into your eye or slash water from a sink.
  • If the object is something you can see in a mirror, you could try to “touch it” out—the reverse process of putting in a contact lens. Using a high-magnification bathroom mirror as a tool, open your eyelids with one hand, spot the object and try to touch it gently with a finger from your other hand. Be careful not to push the object around inside your eye. You could cause a serious scratch.
  • If rinsing or retrieving don’t work, contact your optometrist within 24 hours.
  • If you think the foreign object is embedded or if you’re experiencing severe discomfort or having vision problems, call your optometrist and secure an immediate appointment.

If you do have to see your eye doctor to remove the object, do your best to rest your eyes until you get to the doctor. Use eyedrops, then close your eyes and lie with a cold washcloth over your eyes. Avoid playing video games, working on the computer and watching TV—activities that dry out your eyes.

Go See Your Optometrist

Rinsing your eye with fresh, clean water or using eye drops can help remove small bits of debris like dirt or beach sand from your eye quickly. If rinsing doesn’t help and you still feel irritation after a few hours, or the problem is getting increasingly worse, you need to make an appointment to see your optometrist right away.

During your visit, your optometrist may wash your eye with a saline solution, take X-rays and remove any foreign debris that can’t be rinsed away using sterile tools and anesthetic eye drops.

Follow your optometrist’s advice. It may be that you need to medicate your eye with drops or ointments, or you may have to wear an eye patch.

Make a follow-up appointment with your optometrist, who will make sure your eye is healing properly and provide follow-up treatment if required.


  1. Eye injuries – foreign body in the eye. BetterHealth Channel. Date fetched: July 3, 2021.
  2. Foreign object in the eye: First aid. Mayo Clinic. Date fetched: July 3, 2021.
  3. Small objects in the eye: Overview. National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. Library of Medicine.

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