Coping With Fall Eye Irritants for Kids

Use eye protection and manage allergies

child inside leaf pile

With leaves flying and allergens in full force, parents need to be alert to the risks to their kids’ eyes in the fall, says Paul Rychwalski, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic’s Cole Eye Institute.

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Make safety a top priority.

“While you or your children are working on the leaves, wear eye protection, especially if you are using a mower or blower,” he says. “Small objects can easily become projectiles in this environment.” 

Glasses provide some eye protection, but goggles made of polycarbonate materials are better, he says.

If your eye is hit

If you or your child gets hit in the eye with a small object, do not try to stop the tears right away. Let them help rinse it away. Wash your hands before touching the eye and do not dig around for the object.

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“If you can see something in the eye, you need to see an eye doctor or go to an emergency room,” Dr. Rychwalski says. “It may need to be removed professionally.”

You should also seek care if symptoms of blurred vision, pain and tearing continue for more than an hour.

Allergies also a problem

Outdoor allergens are another fall hazard. If your child is susceptible, consider having giving anti-histamine medications a few weeks before the allergen hits so that your child is ready. Over-the-counter medications with antihistamines include Claritin®, Allerga® and Zyrtec®, and their generic equivalents.

Eye drops with antihistamines and what are called “mast cell stabilizers” also offer a preventive benefit. These can be used before and during allergy season to reduce tearing and itching.

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“Mast cells explode and release chemical mediators such as histamine when activated by an allergen, and can make your eyes very uncomfortable. Drops can prevent and quell these changes,” Dr. Rychwalski says.

What to do if fall allergies are severe

  • Keep your child inside on days when allergens are particularly high or when someone is mowing or mulching leaves nearby.
  • Apply cold compresses to your child’s eyes to stop tearing and itching.
  • Tell your child to keep hands away from the eyes. It only makes the problem worse.
  • Consider seeing an allergist. Don’t be intimidated by the thought of allergy testing for your child. The needles used are very small, and “most children really handle it well,” says Dr. Rychwalski.

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