Eyes are drama queens when it comes to foreign bodies. Even the tiniest speck of dust can feel like a knife stabbing right at your eye. So what is the proper protocol for when something slips past your eyeglasses and gets in your eye? The answer depends on what is in your eye and where.

Don’t rub your eyes

The most important thing to remember is to never rub at your eye, no matter how tempting it is. Rubbing your eyes can cause problems at the best of times, and if there truly is something stuck in your eye, rubbing it could cause the foreign body to scratch or tear the surface of your eye.

If you are wearing contact lenses, immediately remove them from your eyes with clean hands.

Inspect your eye

First things first, you need to determine what is in your eye. Go to a mirror and (with clean hands) pull each of your eyelids open to look closely at your eye. Try to locate the object. If it’s stuck to the inside of your eyelid, you can try to gently remove it with a damp cotton ball or swab, but be careful not to touch the cotton to your actual eye.

Rinse your eye with water

If you find the culprit stuck to the surface of your eye and your tears just aren’t pushing it out, try flushing your eye with room temperature water. Both the water and the container you pour it from must be clean.

Call a doctor

If you cannot safely flush your eye clear of the object, you may need to go to the hospital or an eye doctor. If the foreign body has clearly caused a cut or scratch to your eye, follow up with a physician immediately. If any chemicals have gotten in your eye, immediately flush with water and call the hospital.

How to prevent things getting into your eye

Nothing can guarantee you’ll never get anything in your eye, but there are several things you can do to lower your odds. The most obvious is to wear eye protection when working with dangerous materials or chemicals.

Wearing glasses can also protect your eyes from floating dust particles, pollen, and other allergens. So on windy days, it can be helpful to leave your contact lenses at home and opt for your prescription glasses instead. During sunnier days, a pair of stylish prescription sunglasses can protect your eyes from foreign particles and UV rays.

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