Allergic conjunctivitis is when a child’s eyes become red, itchy and watery in response to an allergic reaction.
The white part of the eye has a membrane (covering) called a conjunctiva, which helps to keep the eye moist. When irritated by an allergic reaction, the conjunctiva becomes inflamed and the child’s eye becomes red, itchy and watery.
There are two main types of allergic conjunctivitis.
Acute allergic conjunctivitis – typically occurs during allergy season and happens suddenly, often at the same time as a watery nose.
Chronic allergic conjunctivitis – is a rarer condition, happens year-round and the symptoms tend to be milder.
Allergic conjunctivitis occurs when an allergen enters a child's eye, either through the air or when the child touches an allergen and then rubs their eye.
Triggers vary between children, as do allergies and the severity of the reaction to each trigger. They can include:
Pollen from grass, ragweed and trees
Chemicals (detergents or perfume)
Smoke or air pollution
Symptoms will vary and depend on how allergic a child is to the trigger. The main signs of allergic conjunctivitis include the following symptoms of the eye(s):
Irritation or pain
Itchiness, redness and/or water
If the child has severe, continuing pain, excess yellow discharge, or their eyes are crusted shut upon awakening, these can be signs of an eye infection.