Babies cannot verbally express how they feel, but a child, even an infant, can provide signs of a problem. An eye condition may exhibit symptoms such as redness, swelling or watery eyes. Symptoms such as watery eyes do not necessarily indicate a serious problem, but knowing possible causes for watery eyes will help you determine when to contact the pediatrician. Early detection and treatment could prevent the condition from worsening and may avoid potential complications.
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An eye infection such as pinkeye may cause watery eyes. This condition may also cause redness and discharge; you may notice that your child rubs at her eyes, possibly indicating eye irritation. Pinkeye can occur from bacteria, viruses, fungi or an allergic reaction to a foreign substance. The viral form of pinkeye, often caused by a virus such as the common cold, is highly contagious, easily passing from one family member to another.
In newborns, moving through the birth canal could transfer a bacteria or virus from the mother to membranes in the child’s eyes, resulting in an infection that causes watery eyes and other symptoms.
In the nasal corner of your eyes you have a tear duct that allows the natural tears coating the surface of your eyes to drain. A blocked tear duct may occur in your infant, and this will prevent the tears from draining normally. Instead, the tears will pool in your child’s eyes and run down her cheeks. Other symptoms may include a pus-like discharge and redness of the eyelids, particularly in the nasal corner of the eye near the location of the duct. You may notice swelling or a bump on the side of your child’s nose as well.
An eye infection may require a prescription eye drop to help relieve symptoms or resolve the infection. If your child has matter that builds up and dries on the rim of her eyelids or in her eyelashes, you can wet a cloth with warm water and hold this gently against her closed eyelids. This will help loosen buildup so you can gently remove the matter. If your child has swollen, red eyelids from an infection, hold a slightly cool, damp cloth against her eyelids, and this may offer some relief.
A blocked tear duct in an infant will often resolve without treatment within the first year. However, your doctor may recommend massaging the tear duct to help relieve the blockage. If the pediatrician recommends this massage technique, often referred to as "milking," she will show you how and where to massage. Children that continue to suffer from the blockage may require surgery to clear the duct.
Contact your child’s pediatrician if you notice excessive watering, particularly if you detect other symptoms or the condition worsens. The doctor will examine your baby’s eyes and determine the cause for the watering and whether treatment may offer some relief. If the pediatrician prescribes medication, follow the instructions carefully; use the medication for the full time prescribed, even if your child’s symptoms improve. Completing the full course of treatment may help prevent an infection or other condition from recurring.