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Eye Irritation in Children: Care Instructions

Parts of the eye


Many children have minor eye problems. For example, your child's eyes may itch or feel irritated. Or your child's eyes may get tired from working too hard. This is called eye strain.

From time to time, irritated eyes may cause your child to have blurry vision. But they do not usually cause lasting problems with vision.

Many things can cause these kinds of eye problems. If your child watches TV, plays video games, or uses the computer a lot, your child may blink less than normal. This can cause dry, red, irritated eyes.

Sometimes dry weather, smoke, or pollution can bother the eyes. Other times, allergies or contact lenses irritate the eyes.

You can work with your doctor to find ways to help your child's eyes feel better. Home treatment often helps.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child take breaks often when your child reads, watches TV, or uses a computer. Tell your child to close their eyes and not to rub them. You may want to try artificial tears when your child does these activities. You can buy these without a prescription.
  • Avoid smoke and other things that irritate the eyes.
  • Have your child wear wraparound sunglasses to protect the eyes from sun, wind, and grit.
  • Place a cool-mist humidifier by your child's bed or close to your child. Follow the directions for cleaning the machine.
  • Do not use fans while your child sleeps.
  • If your child usually wears contact lenses, have your child use rewetting drops or wear glasses until the eyes feel better.
  • Be safe with medicines. Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
  • Try using artificial tears at least 4 times a day.
  • If your child needs drops more than 4 times a day, use preservative-free artificial tears. They are less likely to irritate the eyes than artificial tears with preservatives.
  • Have your child use a lubricating eye ointment or eye gel at bedtime. These are thicker and last longer, so your child may have less burning, dryness, and itching when your child wakes up. Be aware that they may blur vision for a short time.
  • To put in eyedrops or ointment:
    • Tilt your child's head back, and pull the lower eyelid down with one finger.
    • Drop or squirt the medicine inside the lower lid.
    • Close your child's eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the drops or ointment move around.
    • Do not touch the ointment or dropper tip to the eyelashes or any other surface.
  • Put a warm, moist cloth on your child's eyelids every morning for about 5 minutes. Then massage the eyelids lightly. This helps increase the natural wetness of the eyes.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has eye pain.
  • Your child has new blurred vision.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child's eye has new redness.
  • Your child's eye has a new discharge.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.