What to do when something gets in your eye

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I'm Dr. Alan Greene and let's talk about what do you do when something gets in the eye. Irritating problem. First thing you do is not rub the eye. That can just make it worse and harder to get out as well. What you do want to do at the beginning is locate whatever it is. For this it helps if you have somebody else there with you to be able to take a look. Get you to look in all 4 directions - left and right and up and down. If they see it, that's great. If they don't, then pull the lower lids down and look up and see if it might be down in there. If it's not there the last place to check is under the upper lid where you put a little cotton swab and flip that lid open so you can see up underneath there.

Once you've located it - a hair, a piece of dust, or a little tiny gnat - often the easiest way to get it out is by just gently touching it with a cotton swab. It may come off like that. Another thing you can do at home is to just wash the eye under warm water. You can do it under a sink. Stick your head under the sink and do it that way. Or you can get a little eye cup. Fill it with fluid and rinse that way. Put it up against your eye, let me take my glasses off here, and put it up against your eye, open and tilt your head back. I don't want to get any on my jacket so I'm not going to tilt my head back right now for you. Now that's how you get it out.

If though there is an object that's embedded in the eye, don't do any of that stuff. Call the doctor right away and don't try to remove it.

What to do when something gets in your eye

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 9/18/2011
  • David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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