ST JOHN AMBULANCE: How to deal with foreign objects in the eye

St John Ambulance, the nation's leading first aid charity has teamed up with the Herald and Gazette to bring you some simple, but life saving, first aid tips '“ this week: dealing with foreign objects in the eye.

Saturday, 19th March 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 3:01 am
Do not attempt to remove anything that sticks to the eye or penetrates the eyeball

Foreign objects, such as grit, a loose eyelash or a contact lens, which are floating on the surface of the eye can easily be rinsed out.

However, you must not attempt to remove anything that sticks to the eye or penetrates the eyeball as this may damage the eye.

Instead, make sure that the casualty receives urgent medical attention:

• Advise the casualty not to rub their eye. Ask them to sit down facing a light.

• Stand beside or just behind the casualty. Gently separate their eyelids with your finger and thumb.

Ask them to look right, left, up and down and examine every part of the eye as they do this.

• If you can see a foreign object on the white of the eye, wash it out by pouring clean water from a glass or jug, or by using a sterile eyewash if you have one. Put a towel round the casualty’s shoulders.

Hold their eye open and pour water from the inner corner so that it drains onto the towel.

• If this is unsuccessful, try gently lifting the object off with a moist swab or the damp corner of a clean handkerchief or tissue.

If you still cannot remove the object, seek medical help.

Never touch anything that is sticking to, or embedded in, the eyeball.

If this is the case, follow these steps:

• Help the casualty to lie on their back and hold their head to keep it as still as possible.

Tell them to keep both eyes still as movement of the ‘good’ eye will also cause movement of the injured one and may cause further damage.

• Give the casualty a sterile dressing or a clean, non-fluffy pad to hold over the affected eye.

If it will take some time to get medical help, secure the pad in place with a bandage.

• Arrange to take or send the casualty to hospital.

• For those looking for quick, easily accessible first aid information, the St John Ambulance app is available free on smartphones and the website ( offers demo videos, an interactive game, and lots of free advice. For more information about first aid courses please call 0303 003 0101.


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