Foreign Object in Eye or Skin, First Aid

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A foreign object can become embedded in the skin or eye, and any movement of the object, including removing it, can cause increased bleeding, damage, or pain.

All eye problems are serious because loss of sight or infection may occur, so any occurrence of a foreign object in the eye requires medical attention. Splinters (slivers) in the skin can often be safely removed without requiring medical assistance, and this information can be found in the Splinters text. Anything larger than a splinter embedded in the skin should be removed only by a medical professional. First aid measures listed below focus on protecting the skin or eye from further damage and should be conducted while awaiting medical assistance.

First Aid Guide
In the case of a foreign object in the eye, the following first aid measures should be taken while awaiting medical care:

  1. Take special care to leave the object in its place. Do not put any pressure on the affected area.
  2. Thoroughly wash your hands.
  3. The size of the foreign object determines how the eye should be bandaged:
  • If the object is small, cover both eyes with sterile dressings.
  • If the object is large, tape a paper cup over the injured eye, and then cover the uninjured eye with a sterile dressing.

In the case of a foreign object in the skin, the following first aid measures should be taken while awaiting medical care:

  1. Leave the object in place. Removing the object could cause severe bleeding.
  2. If necessary, carefully cut away any clothes from the affected area.
  3. Thoroughly wash your hands, and put on sterile gloves if available.
  4. Immobilize the foreign object with a paper cup, rolled bandages, etc.

In the case of any foreign object in the eye or skin:

  • Do not remove the object (unless it is a splinter in the skin only).
  • Do not attempt to clean the area.
  • Do not breathe on the area.

Who's at risk?

Foreign objects can easily become embedded in the skin or eye and can affect all people. Those who fish are susceptible to the barb of the fishhook becoming embedded in the skin if they are not cautious. Those in occupations that involve working with staple guns, nails, or a grinder are at a greater risk of embedded foreign object in the skin or eye. Proper eyewear protection while working under risky conditions is a must.

Signs and Symptoms

It is usually obvious when a foreign object is embedded in the skin. Large foreign bodies in the eye can be seen easily, but smaller objects may only be seen upon eye exam.

When to Seek Medical Care

If the person has been impaled by an object, is severely bleeding, or is otherwise seriously wounded, seek emergency medical care.

In the case of all foreign objects in the skin, with some exceptions, such as splinters, give first aid and then seek medical attention. Any object that passes through clothing requires medical care.

Any penetrating injury to the eye requires medical attention, even if the object in the eye is small. If there is merely suspicion of a foreign body in the eye, even if an object cannot be seen, seek medical attention for complete evaluation of the eye.

If suspected infection develops days later (ie, the affected area is very red or warm to the touch, painful, oozing pus, or blood-filled), seek medical attention.

Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe

The physician will assess the wound and likely remove the foreign object and clean the affected area.

In the case of a foreign object in the eye, special instruments are required to examine the eye completely.

In the case of a foreign object in the skin, the doctor may give a tetanus shot if the wound is dirty, deep, or if the previous shot was more than 5 years ago. If infection occurs at the wound site, antibiotics may be given.

Trusted Links

MedlinePlus: Eye Injuries
MedlinePlus: Foreign Bodies