Eye Allergies In Kids: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

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Eye allergies in kids are common, and children of varying age groups might experience them. These allergies cause swelling, itching, and redness in the eyes. Although they may interfere with the child’s daily activities, eye allergies are treatable and often disappear within days or weeks.

Seasonal allergies or allergic conjunctivitis are common among children. While seasonal allergies are non-transmissible, eye infections can transfer from person to person or from one eye to the other.

Read on to know about eye allergies in kids, including their causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Symptoms Of Eye Allergies In Children

An eye irritation can develop into a chronic eye allergy and affect a child’s everyday life, and thus, it is essential to identify any discomfort in the eye (1) (2). Further, children might not be aware of the allergy and often rub their eyes, further complicating the eye condition. Although eye allergy symptoms can vary among children, the following are some common symptoms.

  • Rubbing, rolling, or forceful blinking
  • Itchy sensation in the eyes
  • Swollen eyelids and pain in the eye
  • Inability to see correctly
  • Red, watery eyes and runny nose
  • Discoloration of the eyelids
  • Yellow or green discharge

Causes Of Eye Allergies In Children

As eye allergies develop suddenly, it may not be easy to know the exact cause during each episode (1). Allergies can occur either during the first encounter with the allergen or with a recurrent exposure. They are sometimes inherited from parents. Children whose parents have allergies and asthma are more susceptible to it.

Some possible causes of allergies in children include:

  • Environmental irritants: Exposure to pollen, weeds, and animal dander from dogs and cats often causes eye and nose allergies.
  • Insects: Insects, including dust mites, might also trigger eye allergies.
  • Plants: Some poisonous plants such as ivy, oak, and sumac can cause eye allergies.
  • Foods: Some people are allergic to certain foods such as peanuts and milk, and casual contact with these foods can cause severe allergies in the eyes.

Complications Of Eye Allergies

Ocular allergies cause discomfort and pain in the eyes. Children might be unaware of the allergy and often rub the itchy eyes. When left untreated, eye allergies can sometimes lead to further eye complications, including the following (3) (4) (5).

  • Keratoconus eye disease: It is a progressive and rare eye condition that may lead to permanent loss of sight. Eye rubbing in children induced by allergies is one of the causes of keratoconus eye disease.
  • Allergic conjunctivitis: Sometimes, an allergen can cause an overactive immune response in the eyes, resulting in allergic conjunctivitis. It is non-infectious and caused by histamine released from mast cells.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs: Overdose of certain medications such as corticosteroids can cause further complications such as infection, glaucoma, and cataract.

Diagnosis Of Eye Allergies

The doctor will enquire about your child’s travel history and exposure to common household allergens. They may also examine the eye using a slit lamp microscope or an ophthalmoscope and see if there is a sign of allergy (6).

Treatment Options For Eye Allergies

Eye irritation is often the eye’s instant response to some allergen. Thus, staying away from allergens is often the best treatment option. The following practices can offer relief to your child (1).

  • Eye clean-up: A quick eye clean-up with clean water and clean hands can help soothe eye irritation.
  • Coldwater treatment: A clean cloth soaked in ice-cold water can be placed on a closed eye for 5-10 minutes to relieve eye irritation.
  • Eye drops: Non-prescription eye drops or artificial tears can also be applied for relief.

If the symptoms persist after an eye clean-up, consult a qualified doctor. The doctor may recommend the following medications based on the child’s symptoms. (4).

  • Ophthalmic decongestants: These are used to relieve redness and irritation in the eye.
  • Oral antihistamines: These are prescribed to ease eye allergies. Some of the antihistamines may cause side effects such as sedation, dizziness, and disturbed coordination.
  • Antihistamine eye drops: They are used to reduce itching, redness, and swelling.
  • Mast cell stabilizer eyedrops: They are used to stop the release of allergy-causing histamines.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) eyedrops: They are used to relieve pain.
  • Corticosteroid eyedrops: They are used to treat severe itching, redness, and swelling in the eye.
  • Allergy shots: Long-term or recurrent; this is considered once a particular allergen is identified. The doctor may inject an allergen into the child’s body to stimulate the immune system and help it acclimatize to a particular allergen.

Prevention Of Eye Allergies In Children

Eye allergies are preventable eye conditions. The following measures can help prevent an eye allergy in children (7).

  • Avoid traveling to new areas during the allergy season—late winter or spring.
  • Use a head and eye cover while going outside.
  • Encourage children to wash their hands often.
  • Bath and brush pets regularly to remove danders, and do this outside the house away from children.
  • Declutter the house and remove unnecessary belongings.
  • Clean the house and living area regularly.
  • Use air filters to remove the allergen from living areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long do eye allergy symptoms last?

Eye allergies in children can last for a few days and might extend up to months or years (8). Identifying the primary source of allergy is crucial for devising a recovery plan.

2. Do eye allergies go away on their own?

Once the allergen is avoided and the eye is adequately flushed, an eye allergy may subside (8). Often, eye allergies naturally go away without a particular treatment regime. However, if the symptoms persist, it is essential to see a doctor and follow the prescribed medications to speed up recovery.

3. Are itchy eyes in children a symptom of anything?

Ocular pruritus or itchy eyes are among the common eye problems in children. Allergies often cause this condition. Sometimes, eye conditions affecting eyelashes or eyelids may also lead to itching and swelling of the eyes. Dry eye syndrome also commonly causes eye itching (9).

Eye allergies in children are common and often occur during the harvest and pollen season. The discomfort from eye allergy often drives children to rub their eyes, thus worsening the itching.

It is important to note the signs of discomfort in children since they may often be non-verbal about their feelings. In the case of discomfort, children should be encouraged to maintain hand hygiene and flush their eyes frequently.

Over-the-counter medications and artificial tear drops can be used to soothe burning and itchy sensations in the eyes. However, if the allergy persists, it is crucial to consult a pediatric eye care provider.

Infographic: Risk Of Allergies In Children

Allergies are common in children; however, some get affected more often than others. Knowing the risk factors can help you prepare better. Read this infographic to learn what factors increase the risk of allergies in children.

allergies in children [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Rubbing and rolling of eyes, unable to see properly, eyelid discoloration, and yellow or green discharge suggest eye allergy in children.
  • Environmental irritants, specific foods, certain plants, and insects can cause eye allergies.
  • Coldwater treatment, eye cleanup, and antihistamine eye drops are some treatment options.
  • Covering head and eyes while stepping out, asking kids to wash hands regularly, and decluttering your house can help prevent eye allergies.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

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Anshuman Mohapatra

Anshuman Mohapatra is a biotechnology scientist with more than six years of research experience in analytical chemistry and biotechnology. He has submitted his PhD thesis at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT Guwahati) and served as a research fellow (JRF/SRF) during his PhD tenure. His research interest includes analytical chemistry, neurobiology and lipid disorder diseases. Three of his research... more

Dr. Garima Garg Seth

(MD)
Dr. Garima Garg Seth is a well-known pediatrician in Gurgaon, having more than 19 years of experience in this field. She has completed her education from topmost organizations in India, including AIIMS, New Delhi; Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi; and CMC Vellore. She headed the pediatric ICU of Max Hospital Gurgaon for six years.  Dr. Seth is a strong... more

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