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Got Something in Your Eye? Here's How to Get It Out Safely

Having something trapped in your eye is annoying and typically harmless. However, there are times when it can be serious.

Woman holding open eye and trying to get something out of it
simarik/Getty Images

Few things rival the annoyance of having something stuck in your eye. Though it's common, having something stuck in the eye can be uncomfortable and cause eye irritation. Your first instinct might be to rub your eye until it dislodges, but that can make matters worse. Incorrectly attending to an object in the eye can lead to further damage, like a scratched or torn cornea. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, of the 2.4 million eye injuries each year, 35% are related to foreign objects

Leaving something in your eye isn't an option. We'll go through exactly what to do if you feel like you have something in your eye. But before we do, here's what not to do:

  • Don't rub your eyes until it comes out: Rubbing or poking your eye can cause a foreign object to scratch your cornea. The cornea is the covering of the front surface of the eye. 
  • Don't touch your eye with dirty hands: Besides the possibility of infection, having dirty hands may introduce other objects or particles to the eye.
  • Don't use a towel or clothing: If you use a towel or household cloth to try and get something out of your eye, you may cause further irritation or eye damage.
  • Never apply pressure or attempt to remove objects that have penetrated the eye. 

Read more: Best Places to Buy Contacts Online

How to get something out of your eye

Please, don't rub your eye. I know; it's a reflex. In some situations, blinky rapidly and moving your eye around may be enough to get the foreign debris out of your eye. But it's not always that simple. Sometimes you have to get it out yourself. Follow these steps to get objects out of the eye

1. You always want to wash your hands before you get started. It's also good to remove your contacts to ensure whatever is in your eye isn't stuck to them. 

2. Then, use a mirror to locate the foreign object. Look up and down and then from side to side to find it. This can help dislodge the object from behind the eye. 

3. Start by repeatedly blinking to help your tears naturally flush out the object.

4. If it doesn't come out easily, you may need to flush the eye with saline solution or water.

Man outside using eyedrops to clear his eye.
Getty Images/ProfessionalStudioImages

How to get something out from under your eyelid

There are instances where the object may get stuck under one of your eyelids. Be very careful as you pull down or lift up your eyelid. If the object is stuck under your eyelid, you can flush it out with water or eye drops. You can also use a wet cotton swab to gently touch the object and remove it from the eye. However, that should be a last-ditch effort; typically, you don't want to put anything in your eye. 

How to flush out your eye at home

Sometimes blinking isn't enough and you need to flush out your eye -- think of times when you get soap or shampoo in your eye. If you get chemicals in your eye, you should flush them immediately and keep flushing for approximately 20 minutes

Since we don't all have lab-equipped eye washing stations, a little improvisation may be necessary. You can buy eye cups at a drugstore, though they aren't necessary to flush your eyes at home. 

Try these methods of at-home eye flushing:

  • Use a shallow container filled with clean water or saline solution, dunk your eyes in and blink. If it doesn't come out initially, gently pull back your eyelids to release it.
  • If you only have a glass, fill it with clean water and rest the rim of the glass on the bone of your eye socket and submerge the eye that way.
  • You can also stand in the shower and let warm water run down your forehead and into your eye. If you opt for this option, ensure that your shower head is on a lower pressure setting and that the stream doesn't directly hit your eye.
  • If you can't tolerate submerging your eyes in the water, you can pour the water carefully into the eye or use eye drops to flush it out. If you're like me and don't tolerate flushing the eye well, ask a friend or family member to help.
Doctor flushing out a woman's eye with a syringe of solution
zoranm/Getty Images

Too long; didn't read?

Having something stuck in your eye is downright annoying. And in many cases, your body's reflexive tears will flush it out, and you're done. However, there are times when things like eyelashes, dried mucus or dirt get into your eye and won't come out. You want to act promptly to remove it from the eye to avoid infection or further irritation. Remember that even after removing the object, the discomfort will take time to fade. 

There are certain situations where you shouldn't try to get the object out yourself. Sometimes medical attention is required. Seek treatment if:

  • Anything has punctured your eye
  • Your eye is sore or has discharge
  • Your vision is impaired because of the object.
  • You have a chemical burn to the eye 
  • You can't get the object out at home.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.