Should Your Child See a Doctor?

Eye – Foreign Body


  • A foreign body (FB) or object becomes lodged in the eye.
  • The main symptoms are irritation, pain, and tears


  • The most common objects that get in the eye are an eyelash or a piece of dried mucus (sleep).
  • Particulate matter such as sand, dirt, sawdust, or other grit also can be blown into the eyes.

First Aid Advice for Glass Fragments on the Eyelids  

  • Method 1: Have the child bend forward and close the eyes.
  • 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
  • To get off any remaining glass, pour water over the eyelids and face.
  • Cover the eyes with a wet washcloth. The eyes should not be rubbed.

When to Call Your Doctor for Eye - Foreign Body

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • Sharp FB (Foreign Body)
  • FB is a piece of chemical
  • FB hit eye at high speed (e.g., metallic chip from hammering, lawnmower, explosion)
  • FB stuck on the eyeball (caution: do not attempt to remove)
  • FB feels like it's still present after eye has been washed out
  • Vision not back to normal after eye has been washed out
  • Tearing and blinking continue after eye has been washed out
  • Cloudy spot on the cornea (clear part of the eye)

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If

  • Minor foreign body in the eye (e.g., eyelash, dirt, sand) and you don't think your child needs to be seen (Reason: probably can be removed at home)

Home Care Advice for Eye - Foreign Body

  1. Reassurance: The foreign body will always stay in the front part of the eye. Some parents needlessly worry that the foreign body can get lost behind the eyeball. This is impossible, since the space beyond the eyelids goes back ¼ inch (6 mm) and then stops (i.e., it's a dead end).
  2. Treatment for Numerous Particles (such as dirt or sand):
    • Clean around the eye with a wet washcloth first.
    • Then have your child try to open and close the eye repeatedly while submerging that side of the face in a pan of water.
    • If your child is too young to cooperate with this, 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 irrigation and this usually requires the help of another person.
  3. Treatment for a Particle in a Corner of the Eye:
    • Try to get it out with a moistened cotton swab, the corner of a moistened cloth, or a small piece of Scotch tape.
  4. Treatment for a Particle Under the Lower Lid:
    • 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 speck while holding the lid out.
  5. Treatment for a Particle Under the Upper Lid:
    • If the particle can't be seen, it's probably under the upper lid, 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 and draw it over the lower lid while the eye is closed. When the eye is opened, the lower lid may sweep the particle out from under the upper lid.
  6. Contacts: Children with contact lenses need to switch to glasses temporarily (Reason: to prevent damage to the cornea).
  7. Expected Course: The discomfort, redness and excessive tearing usually pass 1 to 2 hours after the foreign body is removed.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • This approach does not remove all the foreign material from the eye (i.e., if the sensation of "grittiness" or pain persists)
    • Vision does not return to normal after the eye has been washed out
    • Foreign object has been removed, but tearing and blinking persist
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "When to Call Your Doctor" symptoms.


  1. Jayamanne DG. Do patients presenting to accident and emergency departments with the sensation of a foreign body in the eye have significant ocular disease? J Accid Emerg Med. 1995;12 (4):286-287.


This information is not intended 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.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Copyright 1994-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.