Foreign object in the eye

A foreign object in the eye should be taken seriously. If your child feels something in his/her eye, do not let him/her rub it. Rubbing can damage the cornea, the clear tissue covering the coloured part of the eye.
If the object is on the white part of your child's eye, try one or more of the following:

If the object is on the white part of your child's eye, try one or more of the following:

  • Wash the eye with water dropped from an eyedropper or squeeze bottle. The object may flow out of the eye with the water. Use saline instead of water if it is available; it is more comfortable and less irritating to the eye.
  • Fill a sink or other large, open container with lukewarm water. Your child should hold his/her breath and plunge his/her face into the water with eyes open. Your child should roll his/her eyes and move his/her head around until the object floats away. Do not try this with young children who don't know how to hold their breath.
  • Roll the corner of a clean handkerchief, tissue, paper towel or other clean cloth to a point and use it to gently push the object out of the eye.
If the object feels like it is stuck on the inside of the upper lid:

If the object feels like it is stuck on the inside of the upper lid:

  • Pull the lid out and down over the lower lashes, and hold for a few seconds. This may help dislodge the object. You can remove the object with a moistened cotton swab if you take care to avoid brushing the cornea.
  • Tell your child to look up and pull the lower lid down while you look under the lower lid. Then tell him/her to look down at his/her shoes and pull the upper lid up by the lashes and look under the upper lid. A cotton swab can help you grasp the upper lid.
  • Never insert a toothpick, matchstick, tweezers or other hard object into the eye itself to remove an object.
  • Your child should avoid wearing contact lenses until the irritation goes away.
Seek medical attention immediately if:

Seek medical attention immediately if:

  • If the object is stuck on your child's cornea.
  • Eye pain, discomfort, constant tearing or increasing redness persists after removal of the foreign object.
  • The object on the white part of the eye cannot be removed
  • A piece of metal or glass or other object related to an eye trauma is in the eye.
Call 911 if:

Call 911 if:

  • Severe eye pain or impaired vision occurs
  • The object is embedded in or penetrates the eyeball


Most eye injuries are preventable. Use common sense and take a few precautions when there is potential for eye injury.

  • Wear protective eyewear when doing such work as scraping, painting, welding, sawing, grinding or any task that produces flying particles.
  • Wear appropriate protective eyewear during certain sports and recreational activities.
  • Use BB guns and air rifles with caution, as they shoot objects that can easily penetrate the eye. Wear the appropriate protective eyewear.
  • Use caution around aerosol sprays or solvents that may spray or splash into the eye.


Reviewed by Trauma specialists at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Last updated: July 2013, November 2015


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