Getting sand in your eyes is a problem that comes with spending plenty of time outdoors. Sand is a nuisance — and sometimes painful — but there are right ways and wrong ways to remove it. Not removing it can lead to potential health issues.
What It Feels Like
Earth has plenty of sand, about 7.5 quintillion grains worth. You will encounter it when sweeping floors or having a lovely time at the beach. Occasionally, it will get into your eyes, causing discomfort.
It is painful and difficult to deal with a grain of sand in your eye, so you may need to rely on the symptoms to ascertain if sand particles are in your eyes. If sand is in your eye, you may feel a sudden pain when squinting or looking at any bright object.
You may get a mild scratchy feeling when you blink, or your eyes will get watery constantly, and the white part may redden if you rub it continuously. If you try to see with the affected eye, your vision may blur.
Steps to Get Sand Out of the Eye
Your eyes will do most of the work needed to remove any sand particles. But use the following step-to-step instructions for a quicker way to remove sand from your eyes:
Step 1: Wash Your Hands
Washing your hands will prevent introducing more dirt or foreign objects to your eyes.
Step 2: Remove Contact Lenses
If you had worn contact lenses when the sand got into your eyes, you should remove them before trying to get the sand out. Sand can get between your eyes and the lens, making it impossible to extract.
Step 3: Flash the Sand Out
Direct a gentle stream of warm, clean water into your eye. Use a clean cup to pour water into your eyes or running water aimed at your lower eyelid.
Step 4: Blink
Blink several times after flushing your eyes so your tears remove any remaining debris from the eye. You can also brush the sand particles out by lifting the lashes of the upper eyelid over the lower eyelid.
What Not to Do
Avoid doing the following:
- Rubbing your eyes: Because the eye tissues are very smooth, any friction will result in scratches.
- Touching your eyes: Such as putting cotton swabs or inserting your fingers into your eyes. That will only hurt them and can introduce more foreign objects to your eyes.
- Eye redness relieving drugs: Do not apply redness-reducing eye drops, especially if the sand causes eye scratches. The medicines can cause painful irritation if they come into contact with a scratched eye.
Risks of Sand in Eye
Sand rarely causes long-term adverse effects to your eyes because the situation typically resolves itself. But there are times when it fails to abate on its own. That can cause a corneal abrasion or a corneal foreign body.
A corneal abrasion is a common complication when sand particles persist in your eyes, characterized by shallow scratches that form due to friction on the front part of the eye (cornea). The scratches are usually painless, healing entirely in one to three days.
Corneal Foreign Body
A corneal foreign body is another form of eye trauma you can get from having sand in your eyes. It is more common in people who drill or hammer ground surfaces. Although they cause a lot of discomfort, they are less severe than corneal abrasion.
The symptoms of the corneal foreign bodies are generalized, affecting only the eyes. You usually experience the following symptoms if sand causes a corneal foreign body infection:
- Continuous tearing
- Eye redness
- Discomfort when closing and opening the eye
- You might experience blurred vision
When to See a Doctor
Having sand in your eyes is usually not a medical emergency and will almost always resolve on its own. Ordinarily, your eyes always flush out these sand particles with tears or blinking.
Nevertheless, the sand particles can persist in your eyes, which is uncomfortable and can cause health issues. That said if you should contact your doctor if you encounter the following:
- Vision decreases even after removing the debris
- The pain and redness worsen
- Drooping eyelids in the affected eye
- Discharge or a sore in the affected eye
Eye injuries – foreign body in the eye. (August 2020). Better Health Channel.
Foreign object in the eye: First aid. (June 2022). Mayo Clinic.
Recognizing and Treating Eye Injuries. (March 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
First Aid for Eye Scratches. (March 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Corneal Abrasion. (July 2021) StatPearls.
Corneal Foreign Body. (April 2022). StatPearls.
Eye – foreign object in. (December 2021). MedlinePlus.
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.