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What Are the Common Causes of Dark Eye Circles in Children?

By A. Gamm
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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Although seeing dark eye circles in children may cause many parents and guardians alarm, they typically have a benign cause that usually clears up with little or no help. Dark circles under the eyes in children are rarely a symptom of bad health and not usually a sign of lack of sleep. On the contrary, they children are usually caused by sinus or nasal congestion, which is usually the result of allergies. Other common causes include skin type, genetics, adenoids and enlarged tonsils.

Nasal congestion is usually the cause for the dark eye circles in children. The congestion widens the veins under the eyes and makes them appear darker. The widened veins also allow for more blood to flow to the under eye area, creating purple and blue discolorations. Children are likely to experience congestion due to allergies, hay fever, colds, sinus infections or enlarged tonsils. In fact, many pediatricians consider dark eye circles a good early indication of allergies in children and often refer to them as allergic shiners.

Children with fair skin are also prone to form eye circles. This is largely because thin skin under the eyes shows veins more on fair skin than on darker skinned children. Dark eye circles in children are also often caused by genetics. Children who have at least one parent with dark eye circles are more likely to form these dark formations, because their skin is thinner under the eyes. Occasionally, some other conditions such as eczema, which makes the skin rough, may cause dark eye circles in children.

Although there is no harm in seeking professional opinions on dark eye circles in children, medical attention is not usually required unless the child also shows other concerning symptoms. A parent or guardian should contact their pediatrician if the child seems to have a chronic nasal congestion and tends to breath out of his or her mouth rather than nose. Other signs of concern are if the child snores a lot or has continuous irritations or rashes on the face.

In most cases, home remedies for dark circles may be enough to control them. One such recommended remedy is the use of a damp, cold washcloth held over the eyes for 10 minutes. If allergies are the culprit behind the dark eye circles, helping the child avoid the allergens is important. Otherwise, if the child is old enough, an allergy medication may suffice. Pediatricians recommend seeking advice before giving a child any type of medication.

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Discussion Comments
By turquoise — On Dec 18, 2013

@ddljohn-- Of course, you should advise with a doctor. It's probably normal though.

Does your son have very pale skin? I have pale skin and I've had dark eye circles for as long as I can remember. I have pictures of me where I was about five years old and still had them.

My doctors have always said that my complexion is fair and this is the reason. Of course, a good diet, hydration and sleep are important factors as well. If I don't drink enough water or if I don't get enough sleep, the dark eye circles do look worse.

By discographer — On Dec 18, 2013

@ddljohn-- Have you taken your son to the doctor to make sure that he doesn't have allergies or any other health problems?

I once heard that dark eye circles in children could be due to a food allergy, such as a dairy allergy. It's not possible to know this without testing, but it's probably worth looking into, especially if the eye circles are getting worse.

By ddljohn — On Dec 17, 2013

I know that dark eye circles can be hereditary, but can they show up so early?

I have hereditary dark eye circles. I've had them since I was seventeen or eighteen. But my son, who's only nine has a mild form of them. Could it be hereditary?

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