Childhood Eye Allergies
Ocular allergies are known to affect more than 20 percent of the population, and children are not spared. Luckily, for most, vision and the eye’s overall health are not affected. However, even though ocular allergies don’t cause serious eye problems, they can still cause symptoms that affect daily life.
Ocular allergies are typically caused by an airborne allergen that gets in the tear film, causing inflammation. Symptoms can appear seasonally or year round, depending on the type of allergen causing the reaction. Children with ocular allergies commonly suffer from other conditions such as allergic rhinitis and asthma.
Symptoms of ocular allergies may include itching, tearing, eyelid swelling, eye redness, and mucous discharge. After exposure to the allergen, the symptoms can develop rapidly. Attacks can be short-lived and episodic. Most of the time, the diagnosis of ocular allergies can be made based on history alone, but examination by an eye doctor can also reveal physical characteristics of the condition.
The first step to treating ocular allergies is avoidance of the allergen if known. Many allergens, including animal dander and house dust mites, can be reduced by thoroughly cleaning carpets, bedding and linens. The severity of symptoms varies from person to person, so therapy should be tailored to each child’s symptoms.
Treatment may consist of one or more of the following:
- Cold compresses
- Artificial tears
- Topical eye drops (over-the-counter and/or prescription)
- Oral antihistamine medications
Artificial tears help to dilute and flush away the allergen from the eye’s surface. Topical eye drops can be effective in either preventing or treating allergic attacks. Allergy shots can be helpful in some children if the allergen is known.
If none of these therapies is effective in adequately controlling your child’s symptoms, then your child should have an eye exam. Your eye doctor may want to try different prescription eye drops based on the severity of symptoms.
Always remember to follow the advice of your eye doctor regarding usage of prescription eye drops. Certain eye medications, particularly corticosteroid eye drops that are very effective in treating ocular allergies, can cause serious eye problems, including glaucoma and cataracts, which can lead to permanent vision loss.