Baby Watery Eye: What Causes Infant Watery Eyes And How To Treat It

Why Do My Baby’s Eyes Always Look Watery?

October 12, 2020 Updated October 13, 2020

baby watery eye
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It’s no big surprise that you get teary-eyed looking at your baby. How could you not get choked up over such sweetness in human form?! But you may be wondering why your baby seems to always be teary-eyed looking back at you. As you may have suspected, it isn’t for the same sappy reason your eyeballs keep leaking.

Don’t freak out, though. Yes, we know; that’s easier said than done when it comes to being concerned about your precious babe. But seriously, you should know that eye discharge is very common in newborns. To put your mind at ease, ahead is some essential reading on what causes it, what the recommended treatment is, and when you should actually worry.

What is infant watery eye?

Like most issues pertaining to baby’s health and well-being, infant watery eyes are also known by a more clinical name: epiphora. The word itself comes from the Greek epi meaning “upon” and pherein meaning “to bear or carry.” As for the meaning, epiphora is defined as a watering of the eyes due to excessive secretion of tears or to obstruction of the lacrimal passages.

What causes infant watery eyes?

If you notice your baby has watery eyes, several reasons could be to blame. Let’s go over the main offenders.

Blocked tear duct: Per the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearly 20 percent of newborns experience a blocked tear duct. You may hear your baby’s pediatrician refer to this condition as dacryostenosis or nasolacrimal duct obstruction. So, here’s what happens. The tear gland, which is above the eye, produces tears to lubricate and protect the eye. The tear duct, which is below the eye, acts as a drainage system to clear away tears and debris. If the tear duct gets blocked, there’s nowhere for the tears and debris to go. So, they simply start to run out of the eye. Debris can also back up in the eye, leading to crusting eyelids and lashes (aka gunk).

Common cold: You know how your eyes won’t stop running when you have a cold? Unfortunately, your baby might suffer from the same annoyance occasionally. Because they haven’t yet built up immunity, infants are more susceptible to colds.

Allergies: Another possible culprit for your baby’s watery eyes? Allergens like dusk or pollen. Epiphora due to allergies might also be accompanied by a runny or itchy nose, sneezing, postnasal drip, and other common allergy responses.

Infection: Your first fear when you notice your baby’s eyes are watering might be that they have pink eye, or conjunctivitis. And, well, it’s possible. Pink eye occurs when a virus, or sometimes bacteria gets in the eye. Irritation may also be the culprit.

When should you call the doctor?

Again, it’s okay and encouraged to ask your baby’s pediatrician whenever you have a concern about your little one’s health. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and that’s what the doctor is there for. In regards to infant watery eyes, it’s a good idea to call the doctor if you notice any redness, swelling, odd-colored discharge, or tenderness, which could be a sign of infection or more serious condition.

How to treat infant watery eyes?

If your baby’s watery eyes are due to a blocked tear duct, they’ll usually resolve on their own within a few months. So, you won’t need to do anything other than love your baby through it.

Epiphora due to allergies or infection, though, may require medical attention. Your child’s pediatrician may recommend a saline bath to clear out buildup. They may also prescribe an antibiotic. Very rarely, a procedure called nasolacrimal duct probing might be mentioned. This involves a doctor placing a small probe through your baby’s tear duct into their nose to widen the passage.