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Eye Irritation

What is an eye irritation?

An irritant in the eye is a very common cause of red eyes. The irritant could be shampoo, smog, smoke, or chlorine from a swimming pool. Often young children's eyes are irritated by touching the eyes with hands dirty from handling food, toys, soap, animals, or plants.

How long does it last?

Eyes usually lose their redness within 4 hours after the irritating substance is washed out.

How can I take care of my child?

  • Wash with soap: Wash the face carefully with soap and water. This will remove any irritants from the skin so that they do not get in the eyes.
  • Flush with water: Rinse out the eye with warm water for 5 minutes.
  • Eyedrops: Red eyes from irritants usually feel much better after the irritant has been washed out. If the eyes are still uncomfortable and bloodshot, put in some artificial tears (nonprescription item). Use 1 drop every 2 hours as necessary.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call during office hours if:

  • Your child has a yellow discharge coming from the eye.
  • The redness lasts more than 2 days
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.3 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-07-20
Last reviewed: 2015-06-11
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
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