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First Aid Tip: Foreign Object in the Eye

These first aid tips are no substitute for thorough knowledge of first aid.
Attend a
St John Ambulance First Aid Course.

A speck of dust, a loose eyelash, or even a contact lens can float on the white of the eye.

Usually, such objects can easily be rinsed off. However you must not touch anything that sticks to the eye, penetrates the eyeball, or rests on the coloured part of the eye (iris and pupil) because this may damage the eye. Instead, make sure the casualty gets medical attention quickly.

Recognition Features

There may be:

  • Blurred vision.
  • Pain or discomfort.
  • Redness and watering of the eye.
  • Eyelids screwed up in spasm.


Your aim is to prevent injury to the eye.

  • Sit the casualty down facing the light.
  • Stand behind the casualty and gently separate the eyelids with your finger and thumb.
  • Ensure you examine every part of the eye, ask the casualty to look up, down, left and right.

If you can see an object on the white of the eye:

  • Wash it out with clean water poured from a glass or a sterile eye-wash bath.
  • Incline the casualty’s head towards the injured side and place a towel or pad on the shoulder.
  • Pour the water from the bridge of the nose allowing it to run through and flush the eye out.
  • If this is unsuccessful then lift the object off the white of the eye with a moist swab, the damp corner of a tissue or a clean hanky for example.
  • If this is still unsuccessful then seek medical help.

Objects under the upper eyelid:

  • Ask the casualty to pull the upper lid down over the lower lid.
  • The lower lashes may brush the object clear.


  • Do not touch anything that is sticking to or embedded in the eyeball or the iris, the coloured part of the eye.
  • Place an eye pad over the eye.
  • Take or send the casualty to hospital.