Particle in the Eye (Child)

Adult hands putting eyedrops in child's eye.

The conjunctiva is a thin membrane in the eye. It covers the white of the eye and the inside of the eyelid. A very small object, such as an eyelash or dirt, can become trapped under the eyelid. This is called a conjunctival foreign body. This can be very irritating to the eye, no matter how small the object is.

The eye may be very painful. The eye and the eyelid may become red and swollen. It can become hard for the child to open the eye or even to sleep.

A topical anesthetic may be put in your child’s eye. This soothes pain. It also helps the healthcare provider look at the eye and remove the object.

Home care

Your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe eye drops or an ointment. These are to help ease pain and prevent infection. Follow all instructions when using these medicines.

To give your child eye medicine

  1. Wash your hands well with soap and clean, running water. This is to help prevent infection.

  2. Remove any drainage from your child’s eye with a clean tissue. Wipe from the nose toward the ear. This is to keep the eye as clean as possible.

  3. To remove eye crusts, wet a washcloth with warm water and place it over the eye. Wait 1 minute. Gently wipe the eye from the nose outward with the washcloth. Do this until the eye is clear. If both eyes need cleaning, use a separate cloth for each eye.

  4. Have your child lie down on a flat surface. A rolled-up towel or pillow may be placed under the neck so that the head is tilted back. Gently hold your child’s head, if needed.

  5. Using eye drops: Apply drops in the corner of the eye, where the eyelid meets the nose. The drops will pool in this area. When your child blinks or opens his or her lids, the drops will flow into the eye. Give the exact number of drops prescribed. Be careful not to touch the eye or eyelashes with the dropper.

  6. Using ointment: If both drops and ointment are prescribed, give the drops first. Wait 3 minutes, and then apply the ointment. Doing this will give each medicine time to work. To apply the ointment, start by gently pulling down the lower lid. Place a thin line of ointment along the inside of the lid. Begin at the nose and move outward. Close the lid. Wipe away excess medicine from the nose outward. This is to keep the eye as clean as possible. Have your child keep the eye closed for 1 or 2 minutes so the medicine has time to coat the eye. Eye ointment may cause blurry vision. This is normal. Apply ointment right before your child goes to sleep. In infants, the ointment may be easier to apply while your child is sleeping.

General care

  • Wash your hands well with soap and clean, running water before and after caring for your child’s eye.

  • Gently wipe eye crusts away with a clean, warm, damp washcloth. Wipe from the nose toward the ear. This is to keep the eye as clean as possible.

  • Make sure your child doesn’t rub his or her eyes.

  • Trim your child’s nails weekly to prevent eye scratches.

  • Don’t let your child wear contact lenses until all the symptoms are gone.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

For a usually healthy child, call the healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Symptoms don’t get better, or get worse.

  • Your child has vision changes, such as trouble seeing.

  • Your infant can't follow movement with eyes.

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as warmth, redness, swelling, or fluid leaking from the eye.

  • Your child’s pain gets worse. Babies may show pain as crying or fussing that can’t be soothed.

  • Your child is unable to keep his or her eye open after a few days of treatment.

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