Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Eye Allergy

Definition

  • An allergic reaction of the eyes
  • Main symptoms are itchy and watery eyes
  • Sometimes, the eyes can sting or burn

Call or Return If

  • Itchy eyes aren't better in 2 days with allergy treatment
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic

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 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.

After Care Advice

Overview:
  • An eye allergy most often is caused by pollen that gets in the eye.
  • The eyes can itch, burn or sting.
  • All of these symptoms can go away with allergy eye drops.
  • Eye allergies are common. They occur in 10% of children.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
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.
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.
  • A short-acting allergy medicine (such as Benadryl) may be helpful. No prescription is needed. It needs to be given every 6 to 8 hours. The bedtime dosage is especially helpful for healing the lining of the nose.
  • Long-acting allergy medicines (such as Zyrtec or Allegra) can also be used. Again, no prescription is needed. They have 2 advantages over Benadryl. They cause less sedation. They are also longer-acting and last up to 24 hours.
  • Give allergy medicine every day. Do this until pollen season is over (about 2 months for each pollen).
Newer 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, using ketotifen eye drops every day will help the most. Use these eye drops until pollen season is over.
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. The A stands for antihistamine.
  • Avoid vasoconstrictor eyedrops without an allergy medicine in them. These are the eye drops without an A in the name, such as plain Visine. 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.
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.
Contact Lenses:
  • Children who wear contact lenses need to switch to glasses for a while.
  • This will help the eye heal faster.
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.
Return To School:
  • Children with pink eyes from an allergy do not need to miss any school.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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