What Causes Swollen Eyes in Infants?

An infant cannot tell her parent about eye discomfort or other early signs of an eye problem, so you need to watch for visible signs of a condition 1. Swollen eyelids, one of the most visible indicators, may accompany other symptoms such as redness, tearing or discharge. You need to contact your child’s pediatrician as soon as you spot swollen lids or other symptoms, and this will help prevent further discomfort and any complications from the condition.


An eye infection such as pink eye may cause your child’s eyelids to appear swollen and uncomfortable 1. The infection may occur from bacteria, a virus or fungi. Viral forms of pink eye often occur with the common cold. In newborns, as the baby passes through the birth canal, an infection in the mother may pass to the child 1. A blockage in the tear duct, a duct located in the nasal corner of the eye that allows the tears to drain out, may also result in an eye infection.


Environmental allergies such as pollen may affect your infant, causing lid swelling or other symptoms. Factors such as pet dander and cigarette smoke may also cause a reaction. If you have a newborn, your child’s eyelid swelling may stem from a reaction to the eye drops instilled in your infant’s eyes within the first few hours after birth. These drops help prevent an infection, but if your child has an allergy to antibiotics, she could experience lid swelling and other symptoms.


A pediatrician will typically prescribe a medication to treat the infection or help with the allergy symptoms. The drops or oral medication may take time to work, so the doctor may recommend placing a damp, cool washcloth on your baby’s closed eyes to help reduce swelling. If the swelling does not improve with the cool compresses or after using the medication, the doctor may recommend an anti-inflammatory medication.

A blocked tear duct may require you to massage the area of the blockage to help loosen the tissue or matter clogging the duct, or the doctor may need to perform a procedure to clear the drainage canal.


Contact the pediatrician at the first sign that your child has an eye problem. These symptoms not only include eyelid swelling, but redness and discharge as well. Left untreated, an infection or serious allergic reaction could damage the tissues on the surface of your infant’s eyes, resulting in scarring that will damage her vision permanently.