Clear Eyes® Eye Care Blog

Eye Allergies in Kids

When spring or fall comes around, are you noticing your child rubbing their eyes more frequently? Are their eyes red, swollen, or teary? Have they complained their eyes are itching or bothering them?

Any or all of these may all be symptoms of eye allergies. According to Seattle Children’s Hospital, eye allergies occur in 10% of children. The most common eye allergy symptoms in kids to look out for are:

  • Swollen eyelids
  • Redness on the eyelids, around the eye, and/or in the eye
  • Eye itchiness
  • Eye pain or burning sensation
  • Watery eyes

Causes of Eye Allergies in Kids

While hay fever—the seasonal allergies caused by pollen, grass, and other outdoor allergens—is typically a main source of eye allergy, indoor allergens like dust, mold, and pet dander may be contributing as well.

One of the main reasons eye allergies may be more obvious in kids than in adults is they are more likely to rub their eyes, which not only can spread allergens to the eyes but also can make eye irritation from allergies worse.

If this is the first time your child is showing allergy symptoms, you may want to talk to their doctor first. The doctor will be able to consider any other medical conditions your child has when deciding what allergy treatment(s) would be best. Also, if your child has severe eye pain, their eyes are swollen shut and/or yellowish discharge is leaking from the eyes, you will want to call their doctor. This could be an eye infection or a severe allergic reaction that needs to be cared for more urgently.

7 Tips to Prevent or Limit Eye Allergies in Kids

There are ways to help prevent or limit the effect of eye allergies that can help your kids have an easier allergy season.

1. Take allergy medications. If your child has seasonal allergies or seems to have allergies all year-round, with nasal congestion, sneezing or runny nose in addition to eye symptoms, ask your child’s doctor if allergy medicine or allergy shots would be right for your child. There are also plenty of allergy treatment options you can find in stores today without needing a prescription.

2. Wash off allergens. Kids tend to spend more time outdoors than adults, especially if they play sports. When outdoor allergens are high, it’s even more important to keep their hands and face clean. When they come in from outside, wash their face gently with a clean washcloth and have them wash their hands with soap. Since kids spend a large part of each weekday in school, remind them to at least wash their hands when they come inside after sports or recess.

3. Remind them not to touch their eyes. Even with clean hands, touching or rubbing eyes irritated by allergies can make swelling, redness, burning, and itchiness even worse. Plus, touching eyes can also cause or spread infection if their hands are not clean, so this is a good habit to get into regardless of allergies.

4.  Wear glasses instead of contacts. If your child wears contact lenses and has allergies, have them wear their glasses during peak allergy seasons. Contacts can trap allergens between the lens and the eye, and they can also worsen irritation, redness, and other eye allergy symptoms. Wearing glasses or sunglasses outside also serves as a barrier that can help prevent allergens from entering the eyes.

5. Wash hair before bed. Washing your child’s hair before bed can help ensure the allergens picked up during the day are washed away before your child lays their head on their pillow. This helps prevent allergens from transferring to bedding and possibly entering eyes as kids sleep.

6. Close windows during high pollen counts. In seasons and weeks where pollen counts are high and seasonal allergies are at their worst, keep your home windows (especially bedroom windows) closed so pollen and other outdoor allergens don’t enter the home. Pollen from outdoors can flow through open windows and embed in upholstered furniture, carpets, and bedding.

7. Use eye drops with antihistamine in them. Antihistamines are ingredients in some eye drops that help block and lessen allergy symptoms. Eye drops are quite useful for relieving itchiness and redness associated with allergies. Many eye drops you find in stores are for use in kids over age 3. Check the details listed on the packaging to make sure they will be suitable for your kids.