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Acute Swelling of Eyes -- Was this an allergic reaction?

14 replies [Last post]
By Liamsmom on Mon, 12-31-01, 21:47

Just returned from a not-so-great holiday trip to see family in Atlanta. Twice during our stay, Liam's left eye suddenly reddened, teared, and swelled. The first time, this occurred just after he woke up in the morning(before he had eaten anything). The second time it happened during an evening party (but before any food was served). The second occurrence was much worse -- his left eye swelled shut; then after more than an hour, the right eye did the same. In both cases, the affected eye(s) seemed to be very itchy, but didn't bother Liam otherwise. The "reaction" progressed quickly each time: Liam would start rubbing his eye, and within minutes it would be red, and the eyelids would be quite swollen. Benadryl seemed to help the first time (eye looked normal within 3 hours), but had absolutely no effect the second time. We took Liam to the ER of Egleston Children's Hospital, and were told he was experiencing an acute localized allergic reaction to an unknown substance. Even the whites of his eyes were swollen -- looked like cooked egg white! His eyes also had quite a bit of clear discharge (overnight, it sealed his lashes together).

We were prescribed another antihistamine (Adorax? -- don't have the bottle right now), and were instructed to be watchful for signs of a generalized allergic reaction. During the night Liam developed a chesty cough, a 101 degree fever, and he started breathing in a shallow, "wheezy" manner. He'd been showing mild cold symptoms all week, and I was fairly certain that the "bug" had simply chosen that moment to strike. In the morning, I spoke with Liam's pediatrician back in Denver, and described both the eye incidents, and his current cold/flu-like symptoms. He thought the eye swelling was most likely related to the virus rather than an allergic reaction. It took three full days for Liam's eyes to return to normal.

Has anyone out there ever experienced something similar? I doubt I'll ever have the satisfaction of knowing definitively whether allergies or a virus caused Liam's eye troubles. He's had no other eye problems in his two years of life: EXCEPT for last April, when we visited the same homes in Atlanta. Within two days, he ended up with what was diagnosed as pinkeye. That could be pure coincidence, or it could mean that there's some sort of environmental allergen present there (which would seriously impact future visits to our relatives in Atlanta). I truly don't think ingestion of peanuts or other prohibited foods triggered these reactions, and wasn't aware of them being anywhere that Liam could contact them. I appreciate any input you can provide!!!

[This message has been edited by Liamsmom (edited December 31, 2001).]

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By Sue on Mon, 12-31-01, 22:22

There is NO doubt in my mind that this was an allergy reaction, and a dangerous one.

Our daughter is contact,inhalation and ingestion allergic to peanut products.

If she touch anything that has had peanut product - even when we can't see the residue, she reacts like that (this contact is so easy to get into the body - rub eyes, pick nose, or fingers in the mouth and it is the same as ingestion for our daughter).

She has had many reactions from rubbing her eyes. I watch her VERY close anytime we go anywhere outside our home.

From contact, she starts with the sniffles, then little red marks/blotches (can be almost instant or take a few minutes). At this point we grab the benadryl.

When we don't catch it fast enough she has gotten from one to all of the following within minutes: throws up, diahrea, impending doom, bloody nose, bloody eyes (not blood shot - blood blotches), breathing problems (starts or with a "dry" couch and progresses to croup sounds), AND gets a fever.

When it has gone this far - she is on steroids and two or three other meds for a week - and frequently the "cold" symptoms last a couple of weeks. The rash can take a couple of weeks to clear up.

Sorry this was so long. I just want you to know that you have described our daughter's reaction to contact with peanut products.

Sue in Sunny Arizona

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By CVRTBB on Tue, 01-01-02, 00:44

I agree also that this sounds like an allergic reaction to something. Timmy my 6 year old PA son has these same symptoms to inhaled peanuts and to cats. The 2 major reactions that he has had were both from touching a cat then touching his eyes. It was horrible!! It seems to me that your little boy probably touched something that he is allergic to then touched his eye... does your family have any pets that your son is not normally exposed to?? Outside allergens that may be different than those at home?? May be something you want to consider. Hope he is feeling better now!

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By PattyR on Tue, 01-01-02, 01:53

My son had a similar reaction to dairy products. The whites of his eyes also swelled and eventually his eyes swelled shut. He was eating macaroni and cheese and rubbed it in his eyes. He has also had similar, although not as severe, reactions to dust mites. This occured at a relative's house when we forgot his pillow (which had allergy covers on it). Good luck and I hope this helps as you try to figure out the problem. I would definitely keep pets in mind too.

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By Tammie- Chloe's mum on Tue, 01-01-02, 11:58

Hi Liams mum,

Definitely sounds like an allergic reaction. I know that as a teenager I walked into someones house that had a cat (it was not inside when I visted.
Eyes reddened began to itch and ended up like slits.
Of course if you are outside your home environment there are so many environmental factors you cannot see (or you may not be paying attention to) that can cause allergy
(just like the cat that day). You may never know what set him off. If the reaction occurs again try to take make a mental listing of the environment around you becuse so many environmental allergens have become a normal way of life that we wouldn't even consider them harmful unless we had some type of obvious reation to them.

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By pamom on Tue, 01-01-02, 16:05

I know your sick of hearing this, but it probably is some sort of reaction. Yes it is from him touching some sort of allergen and rubbing his eyes. When my daughter was diagnosed at two we visited friends home and they had a tray of pistachios up high. Although she never even touched the tray, we were there a few days and the whole time I thought she was getting a cold, same symptoms as your child, and it was a reaction to the pistachios. She ended up with an upper respiratory infection as a complication to the inital allergic reaction. If it doesn't clear up take your child back to the doctor, he may need either a steroid, i.e. pregnasone, or an antibiotic if it has turned into an infection.

Good luck!! Before you go back to Atlanta I would start your child on allergy med atleast a week before you go and talk to the people about really getting really rid of nuts in their homes before you visit again.

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By smack on Tue, 01-01-02, 17:42

The Cold virus or any other virus my daughter always seems to pick up always affect her eyes. It looks like Pink Eye however always ends up Viral and Not Bacterial. She rubs them so they do get swollen, there are red lines in her eyes and if you pull down the bottom part it looks so red you would think it is pink eye. It takes around 3-4 days into the virus for them to clear up, so your Doctors version of virus causing this is very possible.

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By doreen on Wed, 01-02-02, 03:16


When my daughter had her first reaction to peanut butter her eye swelled up and she had a rash from her ear to her nose with a minimal amount. She also had "allergic conjuctivitis" from various sunscreens. Maybe he had a virus too since that sometimes seems when reactions are the worst (or vice versa? immune system is tired), but being it was in the same homes as last year I would think it would be an allergy to something. Didn't you write about this last year about him playing in the leaves or something? Maybe that was someone else. Well, hope I was a little help.

The Cold virus or any other virus my daughter always seems to pick up always affect her eyes. It looks like Pink Eye however always ends up Viral and Not Bacterial. She rubs them so they do get swollen, there are red lines in her eyes and if you pull down the bottom part it looks so red you would think it is pink eye. It takes around 3-4 days into the virus for them to clear up, so your Doctors version of virus causing this is very possible.[/B][/quote]

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By joeybeth on Wed, 01-02-02, 16:04

Doreen: It was probably me that wrote in about my daughter's reaction a few months ago while playing in the leaves. She is PA and now asthmatic too, as we learned from the leaf episode. I had asked a few questions here about the leaf incident. Coincidentally, one of our PA girls also had a bad "run in" with sunscreen one time as a baby. She ended up in the ER in Florida on our last day there with what looked very much like a peanut reaction. It turned out she was very sensitive to the sunscreen we had used on her. I don't even want to think about how painful that must have been (the eyes). Poor thing. Anyway...related to the initial question here : our PA girls seem to have very sensitive eyes. We have a hard time deciding sometimes if they've been exposed to peanuts or some other unknown allergen. Sometimes we never find out what causes the swelling which is very frustrating. Joey

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By marina_twinmom on Wed, 01-02-02, 18:11

My son had a severe allergic reaction to something last summer right after I fed him a bottle. We still don't know what it was, but we're assuming that it was to something (probably peanut residue) that I had on my hands when I held him. He's tested as being allergic to peanuts (4+), almonds (3), cats (4), and squash since then.

One of the symptoms was that his eyes became red and itchy, and swelled up until they were almost shut. That sounds an awful lot like what you described.

Perhaps you could call an allergist and arrange to have your son tested for allergies. That way, perhaps you'd find out if your son has a severe allergy that caused his eyes to swell shut. (I, too, am wondering if one of those families you visited has a dog or cat ... something you don't have at home. The fact that your son has had eye trouble several times when visiting them makes me wonder. Oh, yes ... dog and cat food sometimes has peanut protein in it, so if he petted an animal and then rubbed his eyes, that could expose him to peanut protein.)

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By Tina123 on Wed, 01-02-02, 18:26

It sounds to me that it was pink eye. My son's eyes did swell up during PA reaction, and they were teary, but there was no discharge that would make his lids stick together. Sounds like your doctor was right. Pink eye is usually viral, if you notice the discharge change in color to green or yellow then it might be bacterial. My sons get this a lot in combination with a flu virus.

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By Liamsmom on Wed, 01-02-02, 19:18

Wow -- thanks for all the responses! We saw our pediatrician this morning and described both the two episodes I discussed in my initial posting, as well as the one which occurred on New Year's Eve, back here in Denver [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/frown.gif[/img] . As your replies attest, there are a lot of different things which could be responsible for the swollen eyes -- some allergic in nature, some viral, and some a combination of the two. Since all 3 episodes began when Liam rubbed his eyes, the doctor guessed that he had something either on his hands or under his fingernails to which the sensitive eye tissue reacted. I'm not quite sure how to start pinning down the culprit -- every time this has happened, Liam has been in an environment filled with other children and many intriguing toys and objects -- and he's had his hands on EVERYTHING. In each case, dogs and live Christmas trees have been present, but we have both in our own home, as well. For now, I'm going to consult with our allergist, and keep a diary to record details associated with each reaction. Hopefully, some sort of pattern will emerge. Also, I'm going to get even more maniacal about frequent hand-washing, which isn't going to delight my little guy! Again, thanks for sharing your stories and suggestions!

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By Sue on Sat, 01-05-02, 04:09


Just wanted you to know that dogs and cats are very dangerous for our daughter - She can't pet them anymore or get their saliva on her.

The reason for this is that LOTS of pet foods (including dog and cat food) have peanuts products in them. If it isn't an ingredient it gets there by cross contamination in the manufacturing and packaging process.

I know that everyone with a peanut allergy is not as sensitive as our daughter, but this might be something for you to monitor.

She has had severe reactions from just petting cats and dogs. One bad reaction came from putting her face on a bed pillow that a cat napped on.

It took a couple of reactions from cats and dogs for us to figure it out. The reactions all included the neck, face, and eyes before any rash showed up on the rest of her body - but the rash has always been very quick and serious from the contact.

Sue in Sunny Arizona

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By joeybeth on Sat, 01-05-02, 04:36

One of our two PA daughters is allergic to dog saliva (not tested). She used to develop huge red stripes where the dog's tongue had touched her skin and intense itching. I still don't think it was peanut related since we never had peanut containing dog treats in the house and she only reacted to one of our dogs and never the other. hmmm???? Joey

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By fedsix on Sun, 01-15-12, 16:31

Could be other people's dogs (even if they are not present in the home you were visting. It could be coming in on the clothes of other guests. Happens to me, especially with short haired pets, where the dander tends to be stronger.

Also, when I first discovered I had allergies to cats and dogs, it took some time to come to this conclusion because I had pets of my own, and had no allergic reactions to them. The Dr said it's not uncommon to develop a tolerance specifically to your own pets, especially if you had them from a very young age (which I did), while still being allergic to other dogs and cats.

Symptoms include:

Stuffy nose
Itchy eyes (very bad if I rub them after touching something. Results in itchy bloodshot eyes, and swelling.

Cold like symptoms.

Asthma. This is the worst. It preogressively becomes more and more difficult for me to breath the longer I'm directly exposed, especially in a confined space of a house with central forced air heating. Inhalers are a must at this point to help me get through the exposure period (such as when I'm visiting friends with pets).

Anyway, an allergy test should help narrow down the culprit.


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