eye pain in children what to do

As a parent, your first instinct when your child has an eye injury may be to panic. Your child may not have had an injury at all, but the child is complaining of eye pain, so the source is unknown. It is difficult to see your child in pain. You ask yourself what is causing the eye pain and what can I do? 

First, ask yourself a few questions: Did the child poke themselves in the eye with an object? Is the eye red, or does it itch? Do you see a foreign body in the eye? 

A common cause of eye pain in children is a foreign body. The object may be causing the problem, or the eye may have been damaged by an object no longer there. However, pain is not always caused by a foreign body in the eye. 

Sometimes the pain is due to severe allergies. It may also be an infection or inflammation in the eye. Often the cause is difficult to determine at home. 

Of course, if it is a medical emergency then you should call 911 or go to your nearest Emergency Room. However, for other medical conditions, you should seek a proper diagnosis and treatment plan from a pediatric eye doctor

What are the causes of eye pain in children?

The causes of eye pain can vary. However, ophthalmologists are likely to attribute most eye pain to one of the following:

  • Foreign object in the eye

It is possible an insect flew into the eye or a microscopic particle such as sawdust, glass, or a metal shaving, caused the injury. Our eyes naturally produce tears to eject objects, but it is still possible the object remains in the eye. 

It is essential not to try to remove the object on your own. You may end up damaging the cornea. It is imperative to have it examined by a child ophthalmologist or in the emergency room.

Sometimes the object may scratch the cornea. An abrasion to the cornea can be caused by a small or large object, including fingernails or contact lens irritation. It can be quite painful and result in permanent damage. If left untreated, bacteria or fungi may enter the abrasion resulting in blindness if not treated. 

  • Bruising or “Black Eye”

If your child ran into something or fell on their face – especially around the nose – the eye pain may be coming from a black eye (bruising around the eye). Like any bruises, these can be sensitive. 

If your child reports any pain when touching the eye socket or experiences severe eye inflammation, they need to be evaluated by an ophthalmologist. It may indicate a more severe injury.

  • Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye)

Pinkeye is a common source of eye pain. Primary symptoms are redness and itching. It is a very contagious eye infection, common in children. 

Though pinkeye does not usually affect vision long-term, it is uncomfortable for children and very treatable. If you suspect pinkeye, the child needs to be evaluated to treat symptoms and decrease the chance of spreading to others. 

  • Styes

Styes are small red bumps that appear on the eyelid, near eyelashes. Styes are caused by bacterial infections from the child touching or itching the eye.

Although they do not result in visual disturbances, they are uncomfortable and contagious. Never pop a stye and discourage your child from touching or rubbing their eyes. 

If the stye does not resolve within a few days, contact a pediatric eye doctor in New Jersey  to ensure it is not a symptom of a more severe infection. 

  • Allergies

Allergies are a common cause of eye irritation in children. Eye allergies happen when something the child is allergic to- called an allergen- enters the eye. Typical allergens include pollen, dust mites, mold, and pet dander.

Typically your child will experience itching and redness in both eyes. Treatment is focused on symptom relief with over the counter allergy medication or eye drops. If symptoms persist, then a prescription allergy drop, medicine, or allergy shots may be necessary. 

  • Oil Gland Infection (Blepharitis)

Blepharitis is characterized by inflammation seen on the eyelids. It can be caused by bacteria or from problems with oil production near the eye. 

Blepharitis can frequently recur, which makes it quite challenging to treat. It is the most common cause of dry eye in both children and adults. 

If your child’s eyelids are red, itchy, or swollen, it may be an oil gland infection or blepharitis. An ophthalmologist can adequately diagnose the condition. 

eye pain in children

Eye Pain in Children? Find a Child Ophthalmologist Near Me

If your child is complaining of eye pain, the best thing you can do for them is to have the condition correctly diagnosed by an ophthalmologist. 

Our exceptional doctors, Amy Lambert, MD, and Rachel Bloom, MD, are both board-certified pediatric ophthalmologists. Our pediatric eye doctors are experts at meeting your children’s eye and vision needs. We pride ourselves on the results we achieve with our patients, and we believe the key is not just our medical expertise, but also attitude and patience with the children. If you would like more information, please Contact Us today! 


The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.