Blinking is a normal reflex that protects your eyes from dryness, bright light, or any object. It is an unconscious act that occurs several times per minute and serves primarily to coat the eyes with tears and remove any dirt or debris from the surface of the cornea. But the blinking rate of adults and babies are different.
Newborns typically blink is only two times per minute. This increases to 14-17 times per minute in adolescence and remains the same through the rest of our lives.
Now, the reason infants blink less is because their eyes are better protected by smaller openings and because they sleep so much, which may require less eye lubrication. But what happens when your baby blinks too fast or too hard?
What Is Excessive Blinking And Why Is My Child Hard Blinking?
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Excessive blinking is when you blink more than normal times. It can be caused due to a problem with the eyelids or anterior segment, habitual tics, refractive error (need for glasses), intermittent exotropia or turning out of the eye, and stress.
If your baby is blinking frequently, you must check with his paediatrician or ophthalmologist immediately. This is because excessive blinking in babies can indicate a neurological disorder, muscle spasms, eye infection, allergy, vision defect, or even blepharitis. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Facial muscle spasms
Muscle spasms trouble the muscles in and around your baby’s eyes. Fiery and cranky children are likely to have facial spasms as they can be more physically expressive.
Tics are abrupt repetitive movements and almost 20 percent of toddlers experience it, leading to hard blinking. Look for signs of missed naps and even anxiety around others, which are major triggers of tics in children.
Allergies can stimulate eye problems, like red, itchy, or swollen eyes. Your little toddler might blink more often to ease itchiness. If your infant’s frequent blinking is characterised by congestion or a flowing nose, it could be because of allergies.
You may also want to check if your child is sensitive to dust or other environmental allergies. If symptoms like these appear, your child’s practitioner may recommend an allergy test and a subsequent anti-allergen.
If your infant’s massive blinking also involves frequent squinting, you may also need get his or her vision assessed. Sometimes, hard blinking can be a signal that your child requires glasses. In fact, excessive blinking can also be a result of corneal injury or early signs of pink eye.
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If your baby has extremely dry eyes, he may blink excessively as well. You can prevent this by not allowing them to rub their eyes and most importantly by getting your doctor’s opinion on an eye drop that can ease the irritation.
This can be one major reasons for frequent blinking. It’s possible that your baby is simply unable to see anything close to him and is crying out as an indication of the same. While babies don’t really have far sightedness till they are three months or more, if they still rub their eyes and try to garb on to you or any object and then cry, it may be time to take your little one to an ophthalmologist.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD, a behavioural condition that can also result in excessive blinking in an older child. More often than not, kids cannot control this and hard blinking might even be accompanied by multiple vocal or motor tics.
Anxiety or fear
Anxiety and hard blinking of eyes are associated with one another, psychologically. Keep a tab on your child to understand what is troubling him or her. It may be a fear of objects or people which is manifesting into these blinks.
Sometimes your child may be blinking frequently just because of boredom. However, that does not mean that you have to entertain your child all day long. The child will stop doing it after some time.
This is a bacterial infection of the eyelids and its symptoms include redness and even scales at the edges of the eyelids. generally the treatment for this infection includes applying a warm, moist compresses to your child’s eyes for about 15 minutes at a time. You may be recommended to do this several times a day in addition to giving your little one an antibiotic ointment.
Some other serious conditions could also lead to hard blinking. These include the following:
Wilson’s disease: It is rare genetic condition caused by too much copper in your body
Multiple sclerosis: This is a disease of the brain and spinal cord
Tourette’s syndrome: This is a condition that causes you to make uncontrollable movements or sounds
How To Evaluate Hard Blinking?
If persistent blinking is troubling your child, you may need to consult an ophthalmologist who will monitor the eye movement and see how it can be improved. During an examination, your baby’s doctor will use a special microscope to see if the cornea is functioning properly.
Your baby’s ophthalmologist will speak to you about your his or her symptoms. He may even check if the blinking is common or has started excessively in recent times. If there is an issue in the eyelashes or there is a foreign body in the eye, these will be treated using ointments or as advised by the doctor.
How To Treat Hard Blinking?
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Treatment for hard blinking depends upon the actual cause. If your baby had been blinking due to an infection, an ointment would be administered. And if he or she has been blinking hard due to a behavioural issue, it’ll be dealt with accordingly by the doctor. Generally speaking, here are the common treatments for some of these common causes.
Allergies or dry eye: Your baby’s ophthalmologist may recommend an over-the-counter eye drop.
Cornea injury: Your child may have to wear an eye bandage like a pirate! This will eliminate blinking and heal the wound. Besides, your baby may also be given antibiotic eye drops.
The entry of foreign objects: The irritant may be taken out from the eye. This may or may not need surgery depending on the severity of the lodging.
Refractive inaccuracy: Your child will need to wear glasses in case of short-sightedness. In worse cases, your child may need surgery to position the eyes.
Habitual tic: If blinking occurs because of a tic, there is no need to worry. Talk to the paediatrician to diagnose the exact reason for your child’s tic. In the case of vocal tics, your child may make unusual sounds along with hard blinking and you may need to see a neurologist.
As parents, you will naturally be vigilant of your baby’s movements and behaviour. And while that in itself is a 24×7 job, you may need to be extra cautious if you spot unusual activities such as hard blinking. Of course, keeping your baby away from digital devices is one way, but there are a few other things you can try to minimise the risk of this health condition.
Allow your baby to play with actual toys as opposed to a digital device such as a mobile or tablet
Limit screen time to less than an hour if your child is below one
Splash their eyes with cold water in between activities such as playing or even post naps
Include healthy ingredients in your child’s meal. If you’ve introduced solids already you can add a mash of green leafy vegetables, carrots, salmon or tuna, citrus fruits like oranges, and proteins such as beans or eggs.
In addition to these precautions, ensure that your child gets adequate sleep and constantly monitor their screen time. It is not difficult for parents to spot unusual activities and when it comes to your baby’s eyes, there is nothing more important. So if you do spot something unusual, be sure to visit your doctor and get the right treatment.