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How to Get Something Out of Your Eye Safely: Do's and Don'ts

Written by Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO · Ophthalmology · Makati Medical Center

Updated May 21, 2021

How to Get Something Out of Your Eye Safely: Do's and Don'ts

Getting something in your eye is an annoyance and inconvenience. Our first instinct is usually to rub our eyes. However, debris and foreign objects in your eye can be dangerous. Even tiny particles can cause serious damage to the eyelid, cornea, and other parts of the eye. In the worst-case scenario, vision can be damaged. Learn how to get something out of your eye safely.

Tips to Safely Remove Foreign Objects from Eyes

1. Wash your eyes

When dealing with a chemical splash or spill, eyewash should be your first remedy. Time is of the essence when dealing with acidic or basic chemicals like bleach or vinegar. Even shampoo and soap can cause eye irritation. These chemicals can quickly damage sensitive eye tissue and cause potentially serious effects.

Luckily, eyewash stations are installed in most labs, schools, and clinics. However, if you are exposed to chemicals at home, running water from a sink or faucet is acceptable. Be sure that the water is clean and cool. Continuously rinse the eyes with water for 5 to 20 minutes. If you wear contact lenses, remove them while doing the eyewash. Contact a doctor or emergency services if symptoms persist.

2. Blink, blink, blink

Our bodies have natural reactions to certain stimuli. Because the eyes are highly innervated, even the smallest grain of sand or fiber can be uncomfortable. One of the first reactions of the eyes is to blink. Blinking occurs very quickly and can prevent entry of incoming particles. In the case a foreign object is able to hit the eye, blinking enough times usually dislodges it. The more you blink, the more likely you will be able to remove the object without touching your eyes.

3. Cry it out

In addition to blinking, tearing up is another reaction to eye irritants. Chemical and physical substances that enter the eye trigger increased tear production. This is another safety mechanism of the eye to prevent damage and maintain lubrication. An ample amount of tears helps to flush out and dilute the offending material. Allow your eyes to water a bit instead of rubbing or immediately drying them. However, if a chemical enters your eye, proceed immediately with an eyewash.

4. Try soft, sanitary tools

Unfortunately, blinking and tearing up are not always enough to remove foreign bodies from the eye. For larger objects like hair or insects, using a clean, unused tissue or cotton swab can help. The fibers of these can effectively grab or push away the debris. Make gentle dabbing or sweeping motions while holding the tissue or cotton swab at an angle. Avoid injury to the eye by using a mirror and standing or sitting still. Do not touch the tip of the tissue or cotton, as this can introduce germs.

how to get something out of your eye

5. Ask for help

Finally, asking for help is how to get something out of your eye safely, especially if both eyes are affected. Some people are afraid or creeped out by touching their own eyes, so it may be hard to do some of these tips in that case. Asking for help is important if you were exposed to a chemical. While doing the eyewash, your friend should be in charge of contacting your doctor or emergency services if necessary. Additionally, they can see foreign debris more clearly than only using a mirror alone. Be sure that they thoroughly wash and dry their hands before attempting to assist you.

Do NOT do these things:

1. Do not blow on the eye

Blowing on the eye to remove debris is a fairly common practice that is also a myth. Using air from a hairdryer or another person’s mouth is potentially unsanitary and may dry the eyes out. As mentioned above, tears are a natural mechanism of the eyes to clear out foreign objects. Dry eyes create more irritation and increase the likelihood of corneal abrasions.

2. Do not use bare hands or hard tools

Never touch or rub your eyes with your hands, especially if they are not clean. This is especially true if you wear contact lenses and plan to remove them. Doing so may introduce unwanted germs and dirt and cause more irritation.

Additionally, do not use hard tools like toothpicks or tweezers to remove objects. Not only are they sharp, but their surfaces may be uneven or unsanitary. These can cause worse corneal abrasions or puncture wounds than the original foreign object.

4. Do not wash with other liquids

Lastly, only use water or normal saline solution when doing an eyewash. Clean, purified water is ideal, but tap water can suffice in emergency situations. Never use water that is hot, discolored, or has insoluble particles in it. Eye drops are useful to increase moisture and lubricate the eyes, however, a bottle does not contain enough volume to effectively wash out the eye for 5 to 20 minutes.

Additionally, do not use other sources of water such as sea water, pool water, or rainwater. Liquids like tea, coffee, juice, or sports drinks are also not recommended.

Key Takeaways

In summary, knowing how to get something out of your eye properly can prevent damage to your eyes. Follow these tips next time you feel something bothering your eye. If symptoms persist or get worse, talk to a doctor or seek medical attention immediately.

Learn more about Eye Care here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO

Ophthalmology · Makati Medical Center

Updated May 21, 2021

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