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Why Does My Kid Have Red Eyes?

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Close-up of a child's red, irritated eyes.

It could be quite frightening as a parent to have your child’s eyes look red or bloodshot. Unfortunately, there isn’t always an obvious answer as to why. Your child could have red eyes due to conditions like pink eye, blepharitis, corneal abrasions, eye allergies, a lack of sleep, and even digital eye strain.

Red eyes don’t typically cause immediate concern unless other symptoms are present, such as pain, headaches, or vision loss. You should take your child to see their optometrist for an eye examination if there are other symptoms with the red eyes or if the redness persists.

Possible Reasons Your Child Has Red Eye

There isn’t a single answer that would fit all situations why your child has red eyes. Some possible reasons, like eye allergies or digital eye strain, could be minor. But others, such as pink eye or a corneal abrasion, may need medical attention from your child’s optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Eye Allergies

A common reason your child’s eyes may be red is eye allergies. Allergies can cause inflammation in the eyes, making them red and itchy. Pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and certain foods can all trigger an allergic response. You may notice that your child’s eyes are also watery or that they are rubbing them. Over-the-counter antihistamines can help ease the symptoms.

It’s a good idea for your child to see an optometrist if you notice they are having trouble breathing or have hives along with their red eyes.

Pink Eye

Another cause of red eyes could be pink eye (conjunctivitis). Pink eye is a contagious infection that a virus or bacteria can cause. It causes the eyes to become red, itchy, and swollen. You may also notice that there is discharge or crust around the eye. It’s best to see an optometrist if you suspect your child has pink eye. They may prescribe antibiotics if the infection is bacterial and recommend eye drops for relief.


Another possible cause of red eyes in children is blepharitis, which is an inflammation of the eyelids. Poor hygiene, allergies, or underlying skin conditions can cause this condition. Symptoms may include itching, redness, or crusting on the eyelids. Your child’s optometrist may recommend warm compresses and gentle cleansing to alleviate the symptoms.

Corneal Abrasion

Children may also experience red eyes due to an injury. Scratches or cuts on the cornea, known as corneal abrasions, can result in redness, pain, and blurry vision. It is crucial to have children see an eye doctor immediately to assess the extent of the injury. Eye drops, ointments, or even surgery may be required to improve the condition.

Digital Eye Strain

These days, children are often glued to screens, whether it’s a smartphone, computer, or gaming console. This can result in digital eye strain, which can cause redness, dryness, and blurred vision.

You should encourage your child to take regular breaks from screens and to use appropriate lighting. You can also encourage them to take frequent breaks and to practice the 20-20-20 rule, which means looking away from the screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and focusing on an object 20 feet away.

Lack of Sleep

Children need plenty of sleep to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and insufficient sleep can lead to various health problems, including red eyes. When a child doesn’t get enough sleep, it can cause blood vessels in the eyes to dilate, leading to redness and irritation. To help alleviate this condition, help your child get enough sleep by creating a consistent bedtime routine.

Foreign Bodies

Children are naturally curious and can easily get small objects trapped in their eyes. This can cause irritation and redness. If your child complains of red, scratchy eyes, they may have a foreign body, such as sand or a speck of dirt, in their eyes. You should take them to an optometrist who can use specialized equipment to examine and remove the object. Trying to remove the foreign body yourself may cause further damage or injury to the eye.

A child undergoing a slit-lamp exam.

When Should Your Child See an Optometrist?

If your child’s eyes have turned red, don’t panic. It could be something as simple as allergies or a small irritation. But if the redness sticks around for more than a day or two, it’s time to see your optometrist.

If your child is experiencing pain, sensitivity to light, or vision changes along with that redness, don’t wait it out—contact us at Total Vision in Chula Vista to book an examination with one of our experienced optometrists. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your child’s vision.

Written by Total Vision

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