Here is first aid advice for when you have an object or chemical in the eye.
An object or dirt in your eye
- Try to flush it out gently with water or a sterile saline solution (available from your local pharmacy). You can do this by gently pouring water or saline over the eyeball from a glass or small jug of water held against the eye. Flushing should remove any loose materials from your eye. You may be able to get an eye bath from your local pharmacy.
- Avoid touching your eyes or around your eyes if you have dirty hands and fingers as you may spread an infection. Wash your hands in warm soapy water and dry them before and after touching your eye area.
- If the object remains in your eye after flushing with water or saline, or if it’s stuck in your eye, go to your nearest emergency department as soon as possible. Do not drive yourself. Ask a friend or relative to take you.
Chemicals in your eye
Getting chemicals in your eye can be quite serious, so it’s important that you take the right steps to prevent any lasting damage:
- Try to find the container or packet that the chemical came in. It will have instructions on the back that tell you what to do if you get the product in your eye. If you cannot find the instructions, follow those below.
- Flush your eye for 10–20 minutes with water or a sterile saline solution (available from your local pharmacy). You can do this by gently pouring water or saline over the eyeball from a glass or small jug of water held against the eye. Refill the glass or jug as needed to continue flushing for 10–20 minutes.
- Cover your eye with a clean pad or a piece of sterile gauze and go to your nearest emergency department as soon as possible. Do not drive yourself. Ask a friend or relative to take you.
- Try not to rub or scratch your eye, even if it’s painful or itchy, to avoid the risk of irritating it or making it worse.
- Avoid touching your eyes with dirty hands and fingers, which may cause an infection. Wash your hands in warm soapy water and dry them before and after touching your eye.
- If you are in pain, get advice on the pain relief medicines you can take.
- If your eye is bruised, hold an ice pack against it to reduce swelling. A frozen bag of peas wrapped in a tea towel makes a good ice pack. The bag of peas can be repeatedly re-frozen but you must not then eat the re-frozen peas.
- If you have an injury to your eye you should avoid wearing contact lenses until the injury has healed. Try to wear your glasses instead.
Protect your eyes
It is important to protect your eyes by wearing a face visor or a pair of wrap-around goggles if you work in an environment where there’s a risk of getting objects such as wood chips, dust, or metal fragments, or chemicals in your eyes. It is a good idea to speak to your employer about other protective clothing to minimise the risk of harm to other parts of the body. The use of eye protection is also important at home when you perform certain activities, such as using garden equipment or cleaning or working with chemicals.
Not sure what to do next?
If you are still concerned about your eye injury, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
Last reviewed: July 2015