Eye - Allergy  

This Care Guide Covers:

  • An allergic reaction of the eyes
  • The eyes are itchy and watery

If not, see these topics
When to Call Your Doctor

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Sacs of clear fluid (blisters) on whites of eyes
  • Eyelids are swollen shut (or almost shut)
  • Discharge on eyelids that does not go away with allergy medicines
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Eyes are very itchy after taking allergy medicines for more than 2 days
  • Diagnosis of eye allergy never made by a doctor
Parent Care at Home If
  • Mild eye allergy
Causes & Health Information

Symptoms

  • Itchy eyes with frequent rubbing
  • Increased tearing (watery eyes)
  • Red or pink eyes
  • Mild swelling of the eyelids
  • No discharge or a sticky, stringy, mucus discharge
  • No pain or fever

Causes

  • Pollens - grass, trees, weeds, molds. Pollens travel in the air.
  • Pets - cats, dogs, rabbits, horses. Animal allergens get in the eyes from the hands. They can also be in the air.
CARE ADVICE FOR EYE ALLERGY

  1. What You Should Know:
    • An eye allergy most often is caused by pollen that gets in the eye.
    • Eye allergies are common. They occur in 10% of children.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Wash Allergens Off the Face:
    • Use a wet washcloth to clean off the eyelids and face.
    • Rinse the eyes with a small amount of warm water. Tears will do the rest.
    • Then put a cold wet washcloth on the itchy eye.
    • Prevention: Wash the hair every night because it collects lots of pollen.
  3. Oral Allergy Medicines:
    • If the nose is also itchy and runny, your child probably has hay fever. Hay fever is allergic symptoms of both the nose and eyes.
    • Give your child an allergy medicine by mouth. This should get rid of the nose and the eye symptoms. Most often, eye drops will not be needed.
    • Benadryl or Chlorpheniramine (CTM) products are very helpful. No prescription is needed. They need to be given every 6 to 8 hours. See Dose Table. The bedtime dosage is especially helpful for healing the lining of the nose.
    • Give allergy medicine every day. Do this until pollen season is over (about 2 months for each pollen).
  4. New Antihistamine Eye Drops (Ketotifen) for Pollen Allergies - 1st Choice:
    • Usually, an oral allergy medicine will control the allergic symptoms of the eye.
    • If the eyes remain itchy and poorly controlled, buy some Ketotifen antihistamine eye drops. No prescription is needed.
    • Dose: 1 drop every 12 hours in both eyes.
    • Ask your pharmacist to suggest a brand. Examples are Zaditor or Alaway.
    • For severe allergies, the use of ketotifen eye drops every day will help the most. Use these eye drops until pollen season is over.
  5. Older Antihistamine/Vasoconstrictor Eye Drops - 2nd Choice:
    • Often, the eyes will feel much better after the allergic substance is washed out. Also, putting a cold wet washcloth on them usually makes the eyes feel better.
    • If not, this type of eye drop can be used for added relief. No prescription is needed.
    • Ask your pharmacist to suggest a brand. Examples are Naphcon A, Opcon A or Visine A.
    • Avoid vasoconstrictor eyedrops without an allergy medicine in them. These are the eye drops without an A in the name. Reason: They only treat the redness, not the cause.
    • Dose: 1 drop every 8 hours as needed.
    • Do not use for over 5 days. (Reason: Will cause red eyes from rebound effect)
    • Downside: Doesn't work as well as Ketotifen eye drops.
  6. Eye Drops: How to Give
    • For a cooperative child, gently pull down on the lower lid. Put 1 drop inside the lower lid. Then ask your child to close the eye for 2 minutes. Reason: So the medicine will get into the tissues.
    • For a child who won't open his eye, have him lie down. Put 1 drop over the inner corner of the eye. If your child opens the eye or blinks, the eye drop will flow in. If he doesn't open the eye, the drop will slowly seep into the eye.
  7. Contact Lenses:
    • Children who wear contact lenses need to switch to glasses for a while.
    • This will help the eye heal faster.
  8. What to Expect:
    • If you know the cause of the allergy symptoms, try to avoid it. This is the case with animal allergies. The symptoms will not come back if there is no contact.
    • But, you can't avoid pollens because they are in the air. Most eye allergies continue through the pollen season. They can last 4 to 8 weeks.
  9. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Itchy eyes aren't better in 2 days with allergy treatment
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
DOWNLOAD THE APP

This free app has a symptom checker,
dosage tables for common medications,
home health advice and more.

Apple version of the MD 4KIDS app
Android version of the MD 4KIDS app

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/1/2012

Last Revised: 1/13/2013

Content Set: Child Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.