Blinking is a natural response to dryness, intense light and the deflection of a foreign body moving toward the eye. Also crucial to tear production, the blinking reflex usually occurs at a rate of 14 to 17 blinks per minute in children. When blinking exceeds this rate, experts consider the blinking excessive. For most children, excessive blinking is a benign problem that resolves with minimal medical intervention and in extreme cases, oral medications, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org.
Allergies and sinus infections can irritate eyes, resulting in redness, itching, eye rubbing and excessive blinking. Dust, dry eye, eye infection or even an ingrown eyelash may also lead to excessive blinking. According to the Transitions Optical website, excessive blinking can be the result of something as simple as poor vision. An ophthalmologist or optometrist can assess the child’s eyes to determine whether any of these problems are the cause of the excessive blinking. Eyeglasses, eye drops or allergy medication may be all that is necessary to stop the excessive blinking.
After ruling out problems related to eye health, physicians may consider whether the excessive blinking is due to a tic. The AAP describes tics as rapid movements that are repetitive in nature. While some tics may be vocal, such as repeated throat clearing or coughing, other tics, such as excessive blinking, fall under the category of motor tic disorders. Excessive eye blinking that continues throughout childhood is considered chronic. Short-lived tics, lasting one to two years, are transient.
If a physician determines that the excessive blinking is due to a tic, treatment is usually not necessary. In many cases, the excessive blinking in kids is due to fatigue, boredom and sometimes, stress. Despite the fact that the excessive blinking motor tic affects both eyes simultaneously, experts with the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus explain that excessive blinking does not have a neurological link, so there is no need for brain scans or further testing.
Tourette Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
In very rare cases, excessive blinking may be associated with Tourette syndrome. The disorder usually becomes noticeable around the age of 7 years, with tics occurring many times throughout a child’s day. Obsessive compulsive disorder is another disorder that has ties to motor tics and excessive blinking with the child being unable to control her behaviors. According to the AAP website, a physician may prescribe stimulants to control excessive motor tics. In cases where the excessive blinking becomes socially disruptive, a combination of stimulants or the addition of a sympatholytic medication or tricyclic antidepressant may be prescribed.