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Babies rubbing their eyes is possibly the cutest thing you will see. Their tiny fists rubbing those round curious eyes are sure to tug at your heartstrings. Usually, babies rub their eyes when they feel tired or sleepy, but in some cases, your baby might also be feeling pain due to dust or an eyelash in the eyes, an eye infection, or even an allergy.
Your infant rubbing his eyes can be a warning sign for all the above. You need to be alert, so that you can do everything to help prevent your little one from accidentally hurting his eyes by rubbing too hard. Let’s look at some of the reasons why babies rub their eyes.
There are several reasons why babies rub their eyes –
1. They Are Feeling Sleepy
Sometimes, along with rubbing the eyes, your baby may also yawn. This means that he is sleepy and tired. When you are tired, your eyes are fatigued. That’s why babies rub their eyes, so that they can try and relieve some of the tension and soreness around the eye muscles and in the eyelids, just like during a massage. This indicates that its time for a good, long nap!
2. Their Eyes Are Dry
Your baby can also rub his eyes when they become too dry. A tear film covers the inside eye and evaporates if it gets exposed to air for a long time. This creates discomfort, due to dryness of the eyes, and your baby may instinctively rub his eyes to relieve that discomfort, especially since rubbing creates tears, which bring back moisture to the eyes.
3. They Are Curious
You may notice that when you close your eyes and rub them, you see lights and patterns on the insides of your eyelid. Your little one may have recently developed the motor skills to rub his eyes and is experimenting with this new skill. Your baby may be amazed by the patterns seen while rubbing the eyes and could be trying it over and over again to experience it.
4. There Is Something in Their Eyes
Your baby may be rubbing his eyes continuously if there is something in there causing irritation. It may be specks of dust, an eyelash, or dried mucus. It is important to note that even blinking or tears may be signs of this. If there is an irritant in your baby’s eyes, use a soft wet cloth to wipe the eye and face so that nothing else gets in. After that, use cold water to clean your baby’s eyes (never use warm water inside the eyes). Make sure someone is holding the baby’s head or there is adequate support when you do this.
If you see something stuck in the corner of your baby’s eye, try using a warm, wet cloth or cotton swab to brush it out. If the tears and blinking persist even after that, it might mean the foreign object is still stuck inside the eye. In that case, it is best to visit a doctor.
5. Painful or Itchy Eyes
Another reason for a baby rubbing his eyes might be due to allergies or an infection that may present itself through pain or itching. Symptoms that your baby has an eye infection may include swollen or reddish eyes, discharge, fever, or continued crying. In such cases, it is better to consult a doctor so that he can correctly diagnose and treat your baby’s eye infection or allergy.
How Can You Prevent Babies From Rubbing Their Eyes?
You need to take some measures to prevent your baby from rubbing his eyes often, as it might cause injury or scratches to your little one’s eyes. Here are some ways to prevent this from happening.
- Try covering your baby’s hands with mittens if he has a vigorous eye-rubbing habit. This will protect his skin from getting scratched or irritated.
- Put your baby to sleep, immediately, if you notice eye-rubbing accompanied by yawning. Establish a sleep routine for your baby and stick to it. Once your baby gets used to it, there will be no more tiredness, and hence, no more eye rubbing.
- To prevent foreign objects from getting inside your baby’s eyes, try not to take him/ her to places where there is a lot of dust flying around. If you have to, then properly protect the baby’s eyes and nose before exposing him/her to dust.
Risks of Vigorous Eye Rubbing
While mild eye rubbing when sleepy, etc. Is unlikely to pose any threat, vigorous eye-rubbing may have certain risks. Here are some of the risks of rubbing eyes frequently or with force.
1. Increases the Risk of an Infection
Babies are naturally curious and keep touching everything around them. Not to mention the people around who transfer the germs they carry, when cuddling the little ones. Rubbing the eyes increases the risk of these germs being transferred into your baby’s eye and causing an infection.
2. Worsens Eyesight in the Long Term
Constantly rubbing the eyes leads to thinning of the corneal tissue, worsening eyesight in the long run. While the effects may not be as immediate as infection, your baby is more likely to grow up with progressive myopia later on in life.
3. Can Cause an Injury
The baby may vigorously rub his eye if there is something stuck in there causing irritation. This increases the risk of a corneal abrasion, which can be painful and take longer to heal.
Do not worry or panic if you notice your baby developing an eye-rubbing habit. If you think something is bothering him and notice any redness or swelling, try washing the eyes and cleaning the area around them, using the methods explained above. If that does not help with redness, and the swelling persists, consult a doctor. If the eye- rubbing continues to a greater extent, even without redness or swelling, it is still better to visit the doctor once to be 100% sure that everything is alright. After all, no compromises should be taken when it is your baby in question!
Also Read: Eye Problems in Babies