Swollen Eyes

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Toddler's red, swollen eyes

Feb 2002

My 2.5 year old daughter has, apparently, developed allergies recently. About two months ago she started rubbing her eyes now and then, and since then she has gotten more and more frantic about it, rubbing with both fists over and over again all day long. The result is two VERY swollen and red eyelids, dark circles under her eyes, and red blotches on her cheeks that last all day long. It looks terribly uncomfortable, and seems to be affecting her behavior, which is getting more and more punchy each day. She is acting and looking as if she hasn't slept in days, though she has. It's awful. Her doctors say it is textbook allergies, most likely to dust mites and pollen, and that there really isn't much we can do other than try to make her comfortable, and perhaps alleviate her symptoms with medication. Benadryl does nothing for her. We have tried eye drops, in particular Naphcon-A, which does nothing but scare the heck out of her when we try to give it to her. Just recently we started prescription Claritin syrup, and that too is doing nothing for her. We have also been washing her hands meticulously, vacuuming, dusting, replacing our heater filters, and basically trying to reduce our household irritants. Meanwhile, she is looking terrible, and having more and more difficulty enjoying her classes and play dates. This happens in our house, and out in the world, and at her school and gym. She is now asking to just stay home all the time. One minute she'll look OK, and the next minute her face is swollen, and her face looks as if she has been punched in each eye. We're starting to get a little desperate, and are wondering if anybody else has seen this kind of allergic symptom in their children before. If so, do you have any advice, or recommendations for specific medications, diets, herbal remedies, or otherwise?? We could use some help. Thank you! Anne

The doctor is probably going by what he sees in the office. It reads like there's more going on there than just the allergy and eye rubbing. This behavior may have evolved from an allergic reaction into a coping mechanism. You mentioned classes and play dates. Is the rubbing related to the transitions to and from activities outside the home? Transitions to and from the home can be stressful especially to a 2.5 year old. Try spreading the engagements out over time or eliminating them for a few weeks and see what happens. There may be other stressors, too. Make a note of when the eye rubbing commences. Does it happen right after vacuum cleaning? After certain foods are eaten? Parents coming and going? Is there a particular time of day when it's more prevalent? Gregg :^)

my advice is to not give up on the eyedrops. there are some prescription drops much better than naphcon-A. drops get right to the site of the problem rather than having to wait for medicine to work systemically. it is difficult to administer the drops to a toddler. maybe your eye doctor can coach you. you have to be fast. and you have to be persistent for them to work. once your daughter starts to feel relief she may be more accommodating to taking the drops. also try cool compresses (another toughie with a toddler). be patient because controlling allergies can be difficult. itching causes rubbing which causes inflammation which causes irritation which causes itching... it is a cycle. suzie

Medicine is a practice and sometimes you have to go through a lot of different medications until you find the right one. Your doctor should send her to an allergist to test her for allergies to find out exactly what is causing her to have such a reaction. If you can pinpoint it more closely, a more suitable drug could be found. Saying your daughter has textbook allergies and knowing exactly what those allergies are is two very different things. She could also be allergic to a food. Get her tested before you try anything else.

When I had the allergy tests, they would not stop with the grass tests. The redness continued to creep up my arm and they had to give me a shot of adrenaline to make it stop. Your daughter is very allergic to something and until you find out what it is, she will stay miserable and you along with her. Marianne

To make eyedrops easier to administer to a young child, try warming up the bottle in your hand or armpit for a few minutes first. Then it's not so shocking going it, and kids won't fight it so much. While my children never had the distressing allergies yours is suffering, it really helped when they had pink eye and needed drops several times per day. Lisa McL