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How to Treat Swollen Eyes in Toddlers

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Last Updated

Noticing that your toddler’s eyes are swollen can be alarming. Most of the time, the swelling is temporary and often from a harmless source that can be treated at home. In other cases, the swelling can indicate a bigger, more serious issue that requires medical attention. 

It is important to understand that it is generally not the actual eye that is swollen, but rather the eyelid or eyelids. Swollen eyelids in toddlers need to be addressed. Even if you’re attempting home remedies, it’s always important to contact your child’s pediatrician promptly.

What to Look for When a Toddler’s Eyes Are Swollen

If you notice your toddler’s eyes are swollen, it is time to look closer and inspect them. First, check the severity of the swelling. 

With mild swelling, only the eyelids are a little bit swollen, but the child can still open and close their eyes normally. With moderate swelling, the eyelids will only open partially and are noticeably swollen. Severe swelling will swell the eyelids shut.

Check to see if both eyes are swollen or if it is only one. Look closer to see if other parts of the face or body are swollen as well. 

Look closely at the eye and eyelid for signs of injury or trauma. Check to see if the white part of the eye (the sclera) appears red or irritated. Also, look for any discharge from the eye, particularly drainage that is green or yellow in color. 

Causes of Swollen Eyes

There are many different things that can cause toddler eye swelling, which can affect one or both eyes. Here are some of them:

  • Rubbing the eye or eyes: One of the most common causes of a swollen eye in children is rubbing it. This can cause a histamine reaction that makes it swell and itch more as the child rubs it.
  • Stye or chalazion: These are bumps or lumps that can appear in or around the edges of the eyelid. Styes are often caused by a bacterial infection, while a chalazion is due to the oil gland becoming clogged.
  • Blocked tear duct: This will only affect one eye, and it is most common in babies 12 months and younger. When the tear duct does not drain properly, it can cause the eyelid to swell and crusty debris to form at the edge of the eyelids.
  • Insect bite: Bugs like mosquitoes can bite children on the eyelid or near the eye, which can cause it to swell. Check for additional bites elsewhere on the face or body.
  • Conjunctivitis: Also called pink eye, this can be viral, bacterial, or allergic in source. It can also cause the eyes to be red, irritated, itchy, and watery, often with a green or yellow discharge.
  • Contact dermatitis: When an irritant comes into contact with the skin on or around the eye, it can cause an allergic reaction that swells the eyelid. Be sure to check other parts of the body for any other areas that could be affected.
  • Anaphylaxis: This is a serious and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can cause the entire face to swell. It can also cause hives and breathing issues, and it requires immediate medical intervention.
  • Cellulitis of the eye: A serious infection and inflammation of the eye, cellulitis is commonly caused by a bacterial infection. Injury to or near the eye or infection in the area can lead to the serious condition. Cellulitis requires prompt medical attention.
  • Edema: This is a type of swelling that is caused by fluid retention, and it usually starts in the feet. It can be caused by kidney or liver failure. It is a serious medical condition. 

Treatments for Eyes Toddler Swollen Eyes

The treatment for swollen eyes will depend on the cause and severity of the condition. For example, if the swelling is mild, you can often treat it at home with gentle cleaning with a warm, wet washcloth and using a cool compress for relief. When the swelling is related to dermatitis, an irritant, or an insect bite, antihistamines can provide relief. 

If the swelling is more severe, you are unsure of the cause, or it is something more serious than eye rubbing, dermatitis, or an insect bite, you should call your doctor immediately. They may need to treat the swollen eyes with prescription medications, such as antibiotics. In more serious cases, surgical care or treatment for the underlying cause of the eye swelling may be needed.

When to Call a Doctor

You will need to call your doctor if the swelling of the eye or eyes is significant, you are unsure of what caused the swelling, it is impacting other parts of the body, or you cannot get the swelling to go down on your own. It can be helpful to call your child’s doctor anytime you have doubts. They can help determine the cause, prescribe treatment options, and provide peace of mind.

Swollen Eyes in Toddlers FAQs

What causes swollen eyes in toddlers?

There are many causes of swollen eyes in toddlers, ranging from eye rubbing and styes to pink eye and insect bites. More serious causes include injuries, infection, allergic reactions, or medical conditions.

How can you get a child’s eye to stop swelling?

A cool compress can help to alleviate swelling around your child’s eye, but if the swelling does not go down and continues to get worse, you should call your doctor right away for guidance. 

When should I take my child to the doctor for a swollen eye?

If you are unsure of what caused the swelling, the swelling is severe, your child suffered a head or eye injury, or you are concerned about the cause of the swelling, you should take your child to the doctor. It’s better to be safe, so err on the side of caution and reach out to your child’s pediatrician.


  1. What Are Chalazia and Styes? (September 2022). American Academy of Ophthalmology
  2. Cellulitis of the Eye in Children. (2022). University of Rochester Medical Center.

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