Q: I have a 2 year 3 month old daughter who has had a very pale face with rings around her eyes lately. She has been sleeping an average of 10 hours per night and taking a one to two hour nap most days. Her eating habits have become somewhat picky, but every day she gets fruit and dairy and meats. I have started her on a gummy vitamin thinking she might have a low vitamin count or possibly just from not being in the sun. Is there anything else I should take into consideration?
A: In most cases, dark circles under the eyes of toddlers aren’t a sign of a serious illness, but it’s definitely something you should discuss with your daughter’s pediatrician. Sometimes, it’s a genetic issue. Children whose parents and other relatives have dark circles under their eyes are more likely to develop the discoloration themselves, because there is a hereditary component, just like there is a hereditary component to complexion and skin tone. In children with very fair complexions, the circles are more noticeable than in children who naturally have darker skin. It sounds as if your daughter is getting plenty of sleep, so that probably isn’t the issue here.
Doctors sometimes refer to these dark circles as “allergic shiners,” because they’re so commonly associated with allergies in children. Discoloration under the eyes is often related to congestion of the nose and sinuses, which causes the veins around the eyes to become slightly swollen and to impart a dark, bluish color to the skin in these areas. While allergies to environmental irritants, such as dust, mold, and animal dander might lead to nasal congestion and the resulting dark circles under your daughter’s eyes, allergies or sensitivities to chemicals found in detergents, lotions, or other household products might be responsible. It’s also important to consider that your daughter might be sensitive or allergic to certain foods or food ingredients in her diet, such as dairy, gluten, or nuts, since this can cause nasal congestion in addition to other symptoms.
Colds, flu, and other respiratory conditions might also be responsible for nasal congestion and dark circles. Because allergies play an important role in asthma, dark circles under the eyes of children are sometimes associated with this respiratory illness. When my youngest son started preschool, he kept a runny nose and dark circles under his eyes for about two months. I think it took his immune system that long to overcome all the unfamiliar germs he was exposed to at his new school. Less commonly, dark circles under a child’s eyes can be related to other health issues, such as a metabolic disorder or vitamin and mineral deficiencies, including a deficiency of vitamin B12, or a deficiency of iron, which can lead to anemia.
It can be challenging for moms to pinpoint the cause of their children’s dark circles without a physician’s help. For this reason, it’s important to take your daughter to her pediatrician for a complete checkup. Once you understand the underlying cause of the dark circles under your daughter’s eyes and treat it if necessary, both you and your daughter will feel better.