Foreign Body in Eye

Foreign bodies entering the eye are not uncommon, particularly in field sports. Dirt, grass, and field marking materials (chalk, lime) can irritate the eye and care must be taken to wash the eye thoroughly.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Eye pain.
  • Sensation of having something in the eye.
  • Tearing and frequent blinking (caused by the body's natural defense mechanisms attempting to clear the foreign particle).

On-Site Management

Protect the Eye. Avoid rubbing the eye and have the athlete close their eye until the pain and burning subside. Protect the eye from bright light.

Gently Remove Object. If the object is in the lower lid, depress the lid and remove the object with a sterile gauze pad. If the object is in the upper lid, have the athlete pull the upper lid over the lower lid and release. This causes the eye to tear, which hopefully will wash out the item. If this is not successful, turn the upper lid back over a cotton-tip applicator and remove object with another moist cotton-tip applicator.

Wash Out the Eye. After removing the object, wash the eye out with a saline solution or commercial eyewash.

Medical Referral. If the object cannot be removed, cover the injured eye with an eye patch and transport the athlete to hospital. In this case, it is recommended that both eyes be covered so that all eye movement is restricted. Also, transportation to hospital is required if there is blurred vision, tunnel vision, a diminished visual field that does not lessen after five minutes, and/or if blood is evident behind the cornea (clear part of the eye). These are all signs of a more serious eye injury.

Return to Activity

If eye irritation persists after the object has been removed, the athlete may have a scratched cornea. This will require an examination by a physician.


  • Most eye injuries (90 percent or more) can be prevented by the use of proper protective eyewear and other safety precautions.
  • Become familiar with current guidelines and equipment designed to prevent eye injuries. Remember that contact lenses offer the eye no protection. Contact lense wearers should utilize the standard protective eyewear as recommended for their sport in addition to their contacts.

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