One of the things that can be puzzling for parents is when their baby starts rubbing their eyes. They may wonder why they do this, especially if they just napped. Many parents wonder if eye rubbing is a sign of a vision problem.
There can be several reasons why babies rub their eyes, such as allergens, teething, or an infection. It’s never a bad idea to speak with an eye doctor if you notice your child frequently rubbing their eyes.
Babies should have their first comprehensive eye exam at age 1. During their first exam, we can look for early signs of conditions that may need additional attention or support to promote healthy growth and development.
Common Reasons Why Your Baby Is Rubbing Their Eyes
While a baby’s eye rubbing is not out of the ordinary, it can be from some form of discomfort or distress. Knowing the different reasons why your child might rub their eyes can help you know when and why to seek professional care from an optometrist.
Normal Developmental Milestones
One of the most common reasons babies rub their eyes is that it’s a normal part of their development. Babies are born with limited control over their limbs and movements, but when they discover their hands and develop fine motor skills, rubbing their eyes is one of the earliest physical actions they learn to do.
If you notice your baby rubbing their eyes when they are sleepy, it’s most likely that they are just trying to get comfortable and fall asleep. It’s a natural reflex for babies to rub their eyes when they are tired. Sleep is important for babies—they should generally sleep for around 12 to 16 hours, including naps.
There’s Something in Their Eye
Something stuck in your baby’s eye can cause discomfort or irritation. You can gently clear it out with a washcloth soaked in warm water. If that doesn’t help, try to keep your baby’s hands away from their eyes until you visit your eye doctor to determine the cause.
Another common reason why babies rub their eyes is eye fatigue or eye strain. Similar to adults, babies can get tired eyes from straining them to see clearly. If your baby has been looking at a mobile device or a colorful toy for long periods of time, they may rub their eyes to relieve the strain.
Your baby can be sensitive to something in their environment, such as pollen or dust, that may cause eye irritation. Rubbing their eyes can be a way of trying to alleviate the discomfort of eye allergies.
Allergies are uncommon in babies. However, when they do occur, the irritation can cause redness, watering, fussiness, and eye rubbing. If you suspect allergies as the cause, it’s essential to identify the allergen and take steps to reduce your baby’s exposure.
In some cases, eye rubbing in babies can signal an underlying eye infection. Conjunctivitis or pink eye can cause redness, crustiness, oozing, and itching, leading to eye rubbing.
If you notice other symptoms accompanying eye rubbing, such as a fever or a runny nose, it’s essential to consult your pediatrician or eye doctor. Sometimes childhood colds can cause pink eye.
If you suspect an infection, gently clean your child’s eyes and eyelids with warm water. You can also cover your baby’s hands with mittens to prevent them from rubbing their eyes. You should also visit your eye doctor for a clear diagnosis and treatment.
Eye rubbing caused by teething in babies can seem unlikely. However, when babies are teething, they may experience discomfort, soreness, and pain that can radiate to other parts of their face, including their eyes. Rubbing their eyes can be a way of trying to soothe the ache.
If you suspect your baby’s eye-rubbing is due to teething, try giving them a cold teething ring or cold washcloth to chew on. It can help numb the discomfort in their mouth and provide relief.
Eye Care for Babies
It can be normal and harmless when babies rub their eyes, but you know your baby best. If you notice frequent eye rubbing or other symptoms that may indicate a problem, book an appointment with Rancho Santa Margarita Optometry. We’re here to help!