Foreign Body Removal Do's and Don'ts
Foreign objects can enter the body in a variety of ways; however, they most commonly affect the skin, ears and eyes. In most instances, you can remove a foreign object yourself. That said, in certain situations, medical intervention becomes necessary.
Removing from the Skin
Most of the time, you can remove small objects and debris from your skin, using a pair of tweezers. When foreign objects enter the body as a result of a puncture wound, however, it's important to use care. Removing large or deeply embedded objects can result in uncontrolled blood loss. Generally, it's best to seek medical attention to remove any foreign body that's large enough to create a substantial wound.
Before you attempt any foreign body removal from the skin, make sure to:
- Wash your hands, using soap and water.
- If you're using tweezers, sterilize them with rubbing alcohol.
- Remove the object and sterilize the wound using rubbing alcohol.
- Allow the wound to dry and then apply antibiotic ointment.
- Cover the wound with a bandage or gauze pad.
Because foreign objects can promote infections and severe bleeding, it's important to see a physician if:
- The object does not come out easily
- The puncture wound is on the face, deep or touching bone
- The wound is very dirty
- The object entered through the bottom of a shoe (stepping on a nail, for instance)
Removing Objects from the Eyes
When small foreign objects enter the eye, you can usually flush them out by blinking or using saline solution. On the other hand, if the object has any of the following characteristics, you should not attempt to remove it yourself, or you could risk infection and/or vision loss.
- If the object has rough or sharp edges
- If it is big enough to keep you from closing your eye
- If the foreign body contains chemicals
- If it was propelled toward the eye at a high rate of speed
- If the object is embedded in the eye
- If it results in bleeding
Removing Objects from the Ears
You can try removing insects and other foreign objects from the ear by turning your head and letting gravity work. You may also be able to remove an object using tweezers; however, you should never probe the ear, since this can damage the eardrum. If you cannot remove the object or you experience pain or hearing problems, seek medical assistance.