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What Are the Common Causes of Puffy Eyes in a Baby?

Puffy eyes in babies can often be attributed to common factors such as allergies, infections, or blocked tear ducts. Ensuring your little one's comfort involves understanding these underlying causes. Sleep patterns and diet can also play a role. Want to ensure your baby's sparkling eyes stay bright and healthy? Discover how to identify and address these concerns in our comprehensive guide.
Madeleine A.
Madeleine A.

Common causes of puffy eyes in a baby include viral or bacterial infections such as conjunctivitis, and allergies. Puffy eyes that occur immediately after delivery may be related to pressure being exerted on the infant's face during the delivery process. This is very common when babies are delivered vaginally, though less common in babies delivered by Cesarean section.

Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, can occur anytime and is very contagious. Older children who are infected can easily transmit conjunctivitis to a baby directly, for example, and it can also be transmitted through washcloths, towels, or bedding. Environmental irritants, such as household cleaners, laundry soaps, and perfumes, can also give a baby puffy eyes.

Many cases of puffy eyes in babies are caused by crying.
Many cases of puffy eyes in babies are caused by crying.

Although puffy eyes are a common symptom of pink eye in a baby, this is seldom the only indicator of the condition. The baby may also have red, irritated or bloodshot eyes, excessive tearing, watery discharge, and profound itching. In addition, eyelid crusting and light sensitivity are common. Treatment for bacterial conjunctivitis includes antibiotics, but if the condition is related to a viral infection, this medication will not be effective.

Conjunctivitis can cause puffiness as well as redness and irritation in a baby's eyes.
Conjunctivitis can cause puffiness as well as redness and irritation in a baby's eyes.

The appearance of puffy eyes in a baby can look ominous, but it is usually not serious. Puffiness can be simply the result of crying, in many cases. After a baby is born, eye drops are put into his or her eyes to help prevent infection. These eye drops can burn, but are generally harmless. When caused by the drops, the puffiness should resolve in a day or two.

Environmental factors that might cause puffiness in a baby's eyes include laundry soaps and other household cleaners.
Environmental factors that might cause puffiness in a baby's eyes include laundry soaps and other household cleaners.

Sometimes, eye puffiness can be caused by a blocked tear duct. This condition prevents tears from draining, and it can even cause the eye to look as if it's swollen shut. Blocked eyelid glands can also cause swollen eyes in babies, as can a sty. These blockages usually clear up on their own, but if the problem persists, a minor procedure using a probe to alleviate the obstruction can be used.

A person with conjunctivitis should not share things like washcloths with others.
A person with conjunctivitis should not share things like washcloths with others.

Since babies are unable to make their needs known, parents and caregivers should be on the lookout for excessive eye rubbing that may indicate eye irritation. If symptoms persist, the baby should be seen by a pediatrician to determine the cause of the problem. The medical professional may refer the baby to an eye doctor who can recommend further testing to determine the cause. In rare cases, the baby may be found to have a corneal abrasion, caused by scratching the cornea with a fingernail or other object.

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Discussion Comments

bear78

@fBoyle-- Actually it might be allergies. My niece is allergic to certain fruits and she would develop puffy eyes whenever she had something she's allergic to as a baby. It's an inflammatory allergic reaction.

Have you also noticed loose stools, constipation or any kind of rash?

You might want to get an allergy test to see if there is a food allergy. It's also possible that an allergy to shampoo or lotions is causing it as well.

fify
@fBoyle-- It could be allergies, but I think there would be some other symptoms as well if that was the case. Are you breastfeeding? I think allergies are less likely in babies who breastfeed.

It's most likely blocked tear ducts. Try applying a warm towel on his eyes throughout the day and see if it helps. If the swelling reduces, it means that the heat has opened up the tear ducts. If not, see your pediatrician because it might be an infection.

fBoyle

My six month old has had puffy eyes for the past few days. There isn't any redness or discharge so I don't think it's an infection. Could it be allergies?

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    • Many cases of puffy eyes in babies are caused by crying.
      By: Peter Galbraith
      Many cases of puffy eyes in babies are caused by crying.
    • Conjunctivitis can cause puffiness as well as redness and irritation in a baby's eyes.
      By: Arkady Chubykin
      Conjunctivitis can cause puffiness as well as redness and irritation in a baby's eyes.
    • Environmental factors that might cause puffiness in a baby's eyes include laundry soaps and other household cleaners.
      By: JackF
      Environmental factors that might cause puffiness in a baby's eyes include laundry soaps and other household cleaners.
    • A person with conjunctivitis should not share things like washcloths with others.
      By: happytotakephoto
      A person with conjunctivitis should not share things like washcloths with others.
    • Conjunctivitis is very contagious.
      By: joshya
      Conjunctivitis is very contagious.