Foreign objects and chemicals in your eye can be painful and harmful. Your eye’s natural responses can flush out small foreign objects. But large objects and chemicals may require external intervention.
When You Need to Flush Your Eye
One of the times that you must flush your eye is when you have a foreign object in the eye. When this occurs, the symptoms are often immediate. Symptoms can include discomfort or pressure, eye pain, excessive tearing, excessive blinking, redness and an inability to look at light.
The most common objects that can enter your eye include dirt, dust, sand, eyelashes, wood splinters, glass shards, metal particles and other stray particles. If any of these foreign objects are embedded in your eye, act fast and flush out your eye. This helps alleviate the symptoms, prevent eye damage, and prevents infections.
Flushing your eye is also the recommended first aid measure if a chemical substance such as bleach, polish, or household cleaners gets in your eye. Getting the chemical out of your eye sooner prevents it from causing further damage. You may also need to flush out your eye if pollutants like smoke or allergies cause dry or irritated eyes.
How to Properly Flush Out Your Eye
Here is a step-by-step guide for how to flush out your eye:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap. Handling your eyes with dirty hands can add to the contamination.
- If you are wearing your lenses, take them out.
- Run some warm water in the sink faucet, bend over the sink and tilt your head. You want to get the stream of water running over your eye from the inner corner to the outer corner. The affected eye should be at the lowest point to avoid spreading the foreign object to your other eye.
- You can use a bowl of warm water, eye wash or saline solution if your head will not fit under the faucet. You can also flush out your eye under a gentle shower but avoid looking directly into the shower stream.
- Flush your eye for about 10 to 15 minutes. You can flush for up to 20 minutes or more if you are trying to remove a chemical. Try to keep your eye open for as long as you can to allow the water to travel thoroughly across the eye.
What Not to Do
The most important thing to avoid doing is rubbing your eyes. This is easier said than done because often this is your first instinct.
Rubbing your eyes can push the foreign objects further inside, worsening your symptoms and potentially causing a corneal abrasion.
When to Call a Doctor
Flushing helps remove most foreign particles and irritants from your eye. However, you should seek immediate medical attention if you are unable to remove the foreign object in your eye even after thorough flushing. This may be the case if objects such as wood splinters, or metal or glass shards penetrate your eye.
If a chemical substance gets into your eye, visit your doctor as soon as you can after flushing out your eye. If possible, carry the chemical container with you.
Also contact your doctor if symptoms persist or worsen or if you experience vision changes.
First Aid for Chemical Exposures (June 17, 2022). Canadian Centre for Occupation Health and Safety.
How to Safely Flush Out Your Eye (June 3, 2022). Cleveland Clinic.
Corneal Abrasions (November 2020). Nemours Children’s Health.
Small objects in the eye: Overview (May 25, 2020). Institute of Quality and Efficiency in Health Care.
Last Updated July 6, 2022
Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.