Pediatric eye doctors often see children suffering from allergies. Eye allergies are common and occur in approximately 10% of all children. Symptoms of eye allergies may be the only allergic response or they can be associated with nasal congestion, runny nose, scratchy throat, cough and more.
The most prominent causes of cause eye allergies are:
- Pollen – This is typically associated with seasonal allergies. The timing of this varies depending on which pollen the child is allergic too. Most commonly tree pollen cause spring allergies, grass pollen cause summer allergies, and weed pollen cause fall allergies. Each “season” of allergies lasts 4-8 weeks and a child can be allergic to multiple pollen spanning most of the year.
- Pets – Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, horses, hamsters, and other common furry pets carry dander. Pet dander can be dispersed into the air by the animal’s movements or it can be directly rubbed into or around the eyes accidentally after touching an animal. Once the pet is separated from the child the allergic symptoms typically last for a few hours then resolve. If you own the pet, the child will have symptoms year-round.
- House Dust – House dust causes year-round allergy symptoms and is made up of pollen, dander, molds, and more that a child can be allergic to.
Eye allergy symptoms include:
- Itchy eyes
- Excessive rubbing of the eyes
- Redness or pinkness to the whites of the eyes
- Swelling of the eyelids or redness of the eyelids
- Excessive tearing and sometimes slight discharge
- Glassy-looking eyes
- Swollen eyes
Your eye doctor can diagnose eye allergies, known as allergic conjunctivitis, and differentiate this from other eye diseases that can have a similar appearance such as bacterial or viral pink eye, contact lens complications, and other inflammatory eye diseases.
There are a multitude of treatment options depending on what your child is allergic to and the severity of the allergic reaction.
- Washing the allergens off your body and face with a warm, damp, clean washcloth can remove most of the substance causing the reaction
- If the allergy symptoms are solely in the eyes often an anti-histamine (anti-allergy) eye drop will be prescribed.
- Most prescription anti-allergy eye drops can be dosed just once per day and last 24 hours. They can often be used on an ‘as needed’ bases depending on what is causing the allergy.
- If severe, other anti-inflammatory eye drops can be prescribed for short-term use to control the acute reactionIf the allergy symptoms also include runny nose, cough, etc an oral anti-allergy medication will also be recommended based on your child’s needs.
- Contact lenses may keep dander or pollen on the eyes longer so changing to a daily disposable contact lens may be the best option. A fresh lens is inserted each day so there is no build up on the lenses over time.
The best way to prevent allergies is to avoid the substance causing the reaction. Of course this is not always an option depending on the situation. By consulting with your eye doctor, the best approach can be determined to treat your child’s eye allergies and discuss preventative care to lessen the severity of the reaction in the future.