When a foreign object becomes lodged in your eye, those who don't know how to properly respond to the injury may inadvertently end up doing more damage to the eye. Be sure to follow the correct first aid response, should you or someone you know suffer a puncture, scratch, or scrape from a foreign object stuck in the eye. 

Call 9-1-1 or get to the hospital immediately.

A foreign object lodging in the eye is one of the most serious of eye injuries, and it requires immediate medical attention. When you make contact with emergency crews, be sure to communicate if the injured person—whether it be yourself or someone you are helping—was wearing glasses or contacts at the time of the accident. Follow any directions you are given by emergency medical response professionals.

Resist the urge to touch or rub the injury.

One of the more damaging natural instincts people have is to rub or touch their eye. This is helpful for smaller irritants, like dust or an eyelash, and rubbing helps to relieve and remove the tiny offender. When the offender is not tiny or has the potential to do great damage to the eye, refraining from rubbing and touching the eye is essential. You can accidentally push the object further into the eye or make the wound bigger as you try to handle it. 

Do not remove the object that is stuck in the eye.

Objects like toothpicks, sticks, utensils, or pencils cause damage going into the eye, but they can cause even more damage if they are removed improperly. If the eye has actually been impaled, do not remove the object. Seek to keep the victim of the injury calm. Many people can panic at the idea that there is something large in their eye, and the pain can be distracting to them, making them desire to draw the object out before they can get medical assistance. While you wait for emergency response, be sure to:

  1. reduce pain with over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Note the dosage for the emergency crews to prevent any mixing with other medications that could be given at the hospital.
  2. cover the affected eye as you wait. Use a dark towel, a piece of gauze, a paper cup, or a clean cloth to keep the eye clean and to keep it from being disturbed. Lodged objects can prevent the eye from being closed all the way, so covering the eye can also help to prevent more debris from falling into the open area. Try to discourage movement of the penetrating object by packing the dressing with gauze or cotton balls. 
  3. still avoid rubbing the eye. The desire to do this can be overpowering. When an object lodges in the eye, smaller particulates can break off and irritate the surface of the eye. These particles need to be removed as soon as possible, as they can also cause damage. 

Reduce natural eye movement as much as possible. 

You want to reduce the size and extent of the wound, and any eye movement is detrimental to full recovery. Eyes move in tandem, so even though the other eye is not affected, it's best to cover that eye with a patch as well. This way, even if the person opens their unaffected eye, there is nothing to see, and eye motion is lessened. Because the injured person will be essentially blind, they will need assistance when seeking emergency help. While you wait for further medical help, it is important to watch for signs of shock and to treat the shock as best as possible. Try to keep the head and neck stable to prevent any unnecessary jostling of the injured eye.  

For more information, contact your optometrist.