Why does your child have dark circles under their eyes?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

It's worrying when your child has dark circles under their eyes, but for many kids the cause is a simple matter of genetics, for others it could be a little more serious.

But by making a few simple changes to their lifestyle it could help them feel, and look, a whole lot better.

Naturopath Nina Ward said there were a number of reasons children have dark circles under their eyes.

"We see dark circles under children's eyes with two common conditions - iron deficiency and intolerances/allergies," Ms Ward said.

"We also see this discoloration in children who are not getting good quality sleep and duration."

Iron deficiency was quite common among children and could be caused by a low intake of iron rich foods including meat, seafood, poultry and leafy green vegetables. But it could also be caused by more serious problems such as gastrointestinal infections and coeliac disease.

"Iron deficiency results in a slowing of growth, reduced learning ability, a general apathy, behavioural issues, and increased susceptibility to infections (colds, flus, skin conditions)," she said.

"If iron deficiency is suspected, pathology testing is recommended, and gentle supplementation to rectify levels.

"Where diet is satisfactory, deeper investigations into gastrointestinal issues will be a priority as where gastrointestinal damage exists, iron will be one of many nutrients not being well absorbed."

It could also be your child has allergies or intolerances.

"Within health care circles, the term 'allergy shiners' is often used to refer to the dark circles that we see under the eyes of children with allergies and intolerances - this could be a response towards foods, airborne particles, pet hair, dust mites, moulds, etc," she said.


"Not addressing an allergy, or at the very least avoiding the allergen, could have devastating results if the child were to become anaphylactic.

"Intolerances, although not as sudden a reaction, create an immune situation within the body that can leave a child more susceptible to inflammatory conditions, such as eczema and asthma."

Dark circles under the eyes could also be an indication your child is tired.

"If a child is not getting enough sleep or having disturbed sleep this has huge ramifications on growth, behaviour, learning ability and empathy towards others," she said.

"Increasing the number of hours a child is in bed or addressing underlying anxiety interrupting sleep patterns may be necessary."

Whatever the reason, it's always best to get your child seen to by a professional.

"Don't ignore dark circles," Ms Ward said.

"See a doctor, naturopath or nutritionist to work out and correct the underlying driving forces behind them."

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners fellow Dr Rebekah Hoffman said while it was important parents seek medical advice if they have concerns, one of the biggest causes was passed along from parent to child.

"There are several reasons for black, or dark circles under children's eyes, however, the greatest?cause is genetic," Dr Hoffman said.

So, if you or your partner had dark circles as a kid, there's a greater likelihood your child could too.

She said the reasons children have dark circles often differs to adults.

"In kids, they uncommonly are going to be due to tiredness or to vitamin problems, instead?the most common causes of black or dark circles under children's?eyes, is nasal congestion or stuffiness due to allergies or a cold virus," she said.

"Importantly, most of the time, your child does not need treatment.

"If however, the circles are due to allergies, or you are concerned that they may be due to allergies, please visit your GP and we can discuss this further."