Should Your Child See a Doctor?
- An allergic reaction of the eyes
- The eyes are itchy and watery
- Itchy eyes with frequent rubbing
- Increased tearing (watery eyes)
- Red or pink eyes
- Mild swelling of the eyelids
- No discharge or a minimal sticky, stringy, mucus discharge
- No pain or fever
- Pollens - grass, trees, weeds, molds. Pollens travel in the air.
- Pets - cats, dogs, rabbits, horses. Animal allergens may be transferred to the eyes by the hands, but can also be airborne.
When to Call Your Doctor for Eye - Allergy
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 or inner lids
- Eyelids are swollen shut (or almost)
- Discharge on eyelids that's not cleared after taking allergy medicines for 2 days
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
- Eyes are very itchy after taking allergy medicines for 2 days
- Diagnosis of eye allergies never confirmed by your doctor
Parent Care at Home If
- Mild eye allergy and you don't think your child needs to be seen
Home Advice for Eye Allergy
Wash Allergens Off the Face:
- Use a wet washcloth to clean off the eyelids and surrounding face.
- Rinse the eyes with a small amount of warm water (tears will do the rest).
- Then apply a cold wet washcloth to the itchy eye.
- Wash the hair every night because it collects lots of pollen.
- If the nose is also itchy and runny, your child probably has hay fever (i.e., allergic symptoms of the nose AND eyes).
- Give your child an oral antihistamine, which should relieve the nose and the eye symptoms.
- Oral antihistamines usually control the eye symptoms and avoid the need for eyedrops.
- Benadryl or chlorpheniramine (CTM) products are very effective (no prescription needed). They need to be given every 6 to 8 hours (see dosage table). The bedtime dosage is especially important for healing the lining of the nose.
- Continue oral antihistamines every day until pollen season is over (usually 2 months for each pollen).
New Antihistamine Eyedrops (Ketotifen) for Pollen Allergies - First Choice:
- Usually an oral antihistamine will adequately control the allergic symptoms of the eye.
- If the eyes remain itchy and poorly controlled, buy some Ketotifen eyedrops (no prescription needed).
- Dosage: 1 drop every 12 hours
- Ask your pharmacist to recommend a brand (e.g. Zaditor or Alaway)
- For severe allergies, the continuous use of ketotifen eye drops on a daily basis during pollen season will give the best control.
Older Antihistamine/Vasoconstrictor Eye Drops - Second Choice:
- Usually the eyes will feel much better after the allergic substance is washed out and cold compresses are applied.
- If not, this type of eyedrop can be used for intermittent eye allergy symptoms (no prescription needed).
- Ask your pharmacist to recommend a brand. Examples are Naphcon A, Opcon A or Visine A.
- Avoid vasoconstrictor eyedrops without an antihistamine (without an A in the name). Reason: they only treat the redness, not the cause.
- Dosage: 1 drop every 8 hours as necessary.
- Avoid continuous use for over 5 days. (Reason: rebound red eyes)
- Disadvantage: less effective than Ketotifen eye drops.
Some children with contact lenses may need to switch to glasses temporarily (Reason: to permit faster healing).
If the allergic substance can be identified and avoided (e.g., a cat), the symptoms will not recur. Most eye allergies continue through the pollen season (4 to 8 weeks).
Call Your Doctor If:
- Itchy eyes aren't controlled in 2 days with continuous allergy treatment
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "When to Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
- Meltzer EO. Treatment options for the child with allergic rhinitis. Clin Pediatr. 1998; 37:1-10.
- Nash DR. Allergic rhinitis. Pediatr Ann. 1998;27:799-808.
- Solomon WR. Nasal allergy: More than sneezing and a runny nose. Contemp Pediatr. 1999;16(8):115-137.
- Spector SL, Raizman MB. Conjunctivitis medicamentosa. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1994;94(1):134-6.
This information is not intended to 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: 8/1/2010
Last Revised: 9/14/2010 1:24:10 PM
Copyright 1994-2011 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.