Children who suffer from allergies will often have symptoms such as sneezing, sniffling and nasal congestion - but if you find that their eyes are red, itchy, and swollen, there’s a good chance they might be suffering from an eye allergy too.
Eye allergies are common and affect about 10% of children. Symptoms can be upsetting for your child yet thankfully they pose little threat to their eyesight other than temporary blurriness.
What are the symptoms to look out for?
- Itchy eyes with frequent rubbing
- Red or pink eyes
- Watery eyes
- Swelling of the eyelid
What triggers eye allergies in children?
Like all allergies, eye allergies occur when the body overreacts to something. Eye allergies are caused when something you are allergic to irritates the conjunctiva. This is the delicate membrane covering the eye and inside the eyelid. Most allergens float in the air so there’s little avoiding them::
- Pollens - these are found in trees, grass, and weeds
- Pets - allergens can be from cats, dogs, horses, rabbits and other animals. Pet allergens are in the air and can also get in the eyes from the hands.
- Dust - dust in the house contains a lot of allergens and dust mites
Sometimes it’s easy to tell what’s causing your child’s allergy. For example, if symptoms strike when your child goes outside on a high pollen count day, or if symptoms occur when a pet climbs on their lap - then you know what’s causing the allergy and you can take steps to prevent it.
What can you do to help prevent your child’s eye allergy?
Although it’s not good to keep your child cooped up inside all day, it will help to stay indoors when pollen counts are at their highest, usually mid-morning and early evening. If you do take them outside, then they should wear sunglasses or glasses to block the pollen from reaching their eyes.
To limit their exposure to dust mites, use special pillow covers that keep allergens out. Wash bedding frequently in hot water, and if your child’s mattress is a few years old, consider getting a new one for them. Also try to stop your child rubbing their eyes too much, as this will irritate them and could make their condition worse.
What can you do if your child has an allergen in their eye?
Soak a towel or washcloth in cold water or refrigerate a damp cloth, then lie your child down with the compress across their eyes to let the coolness reduce any swelling.
Are there any medications that can help?
- Eye sprays can temporarily wash allergens from the eye and also moisten the eyes, which often become dry when red and irritated. These sprays, which can be refrigerated to provide additional soothing and comfort, are usually safe for your child to use and can be used as often as needed.
- If the eyes remain itchy, then over-the-counter eyedrops like Similasan allergy eye relief drops, which relieve itching, burning and watering associated with allergies, are gentle enough for children.
Some parents may already know that when it comes to inserting eye drops, it can be a hard task! For a child who won't open their eye, have them lie down and put one drop over the inner corner of the eye. If your child opens the eye or blinks, the eye drop will flow in.
If they do not open their eye, the drop will slowly seep into the eye. There are lots of different prescription and over-the-counter eyedrops and oral medications which are commonly used for relief of eye allergies but don't give your child anything without consulting your doctor first.