Thinking Moms’ Guide to Red Flags – Allergic Shiners

red flag - allergic shiners

“Oh he’s just tired!”

I’m looking at one of my youngest kiddo’s school friends, huge blue circles under his eyes. His mom notices me noticing. I’m sure a cloud of concern has moved across my face. She’s embarrassed, like she’s been keeping her son out until midnight every night and I’m about to lay a little mommy judgement on her.

“He’s in bed every night at 7:30, but he still has those dark circles.  I get them too.  Must be genetic.”

Newsflash: Not fatigue. Not genetic . . . at least not the way you think is genetic.

Those blue, bruise-y looking bags under your kid’s eyes are a RED FLAG for allergies — and not just pollen allergies, but food and mold allergies too.  They’re called allergic shiners and are usually associated with allergic rhinitis (runny nose) and sinusitis.  There was a recent study that linked the color of the shiners with the severity of the rhinitis: the darker the color, the worse the allergic rhinitis symptoms.

allergic shiners

The dark color, which can also include the upper eyelids, for a lovely “punched-out” look, is from blood and fluids pooling in the thin tissue around the eyes.  Congested sinuses and inflammation put the squeeze on tiny blood vessels and make it more difficult for blood and lymph to flow smoothly. The skin around they eyes is especially thin and delicate so the effects are more readily visible.

Why is this a RED FLAG?

  •  chronic sinusitis
  •  allergies
  •  food allergies
  •  chronic inflammation
  •  mast cell activation
  •  chronic infection
  •  chronic high histamine affects attention and brain arousal neurotransmitters and can contribute to cognitive problems.

Let me repeat that last one . . . chronic high histamine affects attention and brain arousal neurotransmitters and can contribute to cognitive problems.

Why should you care?

  •  Your kid has allergies that need to be addressed for optimal health.
  •  High histamine levels contributes to total allostatic load.

Allostatic load is the body’s “wear and tear” in the face of stress.  High allostatic load can contribute to poor digestion, over-exposure to cortisol, hypercoagulation, and acceleration of any diseases lurking in the body.  It is a constant stessor and a heavy allostatic load can lead to neurological changes, disturbed sleep patterns, and autonomic nervous system issues — think “fight-or-flight” all the time.

By themselves, allergic shiners are a visible effect of an internal imbalance.  However, if your child has allergic shiners and a speech delay or digestive problems, something else could be going on.  Don’t be surprised if removing a few allergenic foods like wheat, soy, or dairy, or adding a little quercitin to stabilize mast cells results in a reduction of neurological symptoms.  It’s all connected.

Researchers, like Dr. Theo Theoharides, are just now digging in to the role of the immune system in developmental delays to uncover possible causes and treatment options.  Thinking Moms can get ahead of the pack and use this information to help their kids feel better and function better.

What can you do? Here are a few things you can do to help turn down allergic response and minimize those shiners:

  •  Try an elimination diet
  •  Nasal irrigation, with either a neti pot, saline mist, or xylitol nose spray
  •  Use an air filter, particularly in your child’s bedroom
  •  Change pillowcases nightly
  •  Wash hands and face as soon as you get home, including eyebrows!
  •  Change shirt when you get in as well.

Some additional resources, research and things to think about:

Mast cell activation and autism

Quantitative assessment of allergic shiners in children with allergic rhinitis.

Acetylcholine, Histamine, and Cognition: Two Sides of the Same Coin

The Low Histamine Chef

Autism Prevention: Mast Cell Activation Disorders

 ~ Zorro

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31 Responses to Thinking Moms’ Guide to Red Flags – Allergic Shiners

  1. jennifer says:

    My daughter had hypoxia at birth, global developmental delays, and an ASD diagnosis. She is 2.5yrs. She doesn’t really eat food, she only drinks toddler formula and she will eat crackers or french fries, sometimes baby cereal (multigrain,) and sometimes green pureed foods (puree spinach/zucchini, puree green beans.) We have relationships with 2 nutritionists and early intervention on a daily basis and are working on SOS feeding therapy but she has been a troublesome eater from day 1, she has been in the hospital on feeding tubes before.
    She has been allergy tested and is positive for: fish, shellfish, chicken, eggs, tree nuts, and cats. We have seen serious reactions to fish and eggs when introduced to her.
    I suspect she also has some intolerance to wheat and/or dairy, but since her diet consists almost entirely of wheat (crackers) and dairy (formula,) I don’t know what to do to get those out of her diet, if it’s possible. She is very picky. She has constant shiners and snottiness and the doctors had us giving her Zyrtec daily from 6 months old. She also has eczema, which used to be quite bad but is getting better. We have recently stopped giving her Zyrtec and she is tolerating it pretty well.
    Feeling stuck. Do we just have to wait until she is older and more able to try other foods so we can get her off of dairy/wheat? I hate that she obviously has an allergy to something but we can’t really get rid of the problem.

  2. Kim Collins says:

    Question. Would the shiner’s go away if my daughter was taking the right allergy medicine??? Or does the allergin have to be removed??? She has severe allergies. Indoor/outdoor, seasonal/non-seasonal..year around! In the process of having food allergy testing. Since she has been taking recommend meds from her ENT her headaches have stopped but she still has the dark circles. Any information and/or comments are appreciated

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      What do you consider “the right allergy medicine”? They usually go down if the child is not exposed to the allergen, but “allergy medicine” doesn’t change the existence of the allergy. What you really want to do is get rid of the allergies. There are a number of ways to help nudge the immune system into working correctly. They usually involve gut healing. Homeopathy, NAET, Restore, probiotics and anti-inflammatories can all be helpful. I had allergies starting at about the age of 11, for over 40 years. In the past year, I have become aware that they have sharply decreased. I have not used my asthma inhaler in about a year and a half, despite spending hours in houses with cats and kicking up a lot of dust in major cleaning campaigns. That would have been unheard of in the past. I’ve been doing gut healing and homeopathy.

  3. Raina says:

    Out of curiosity, does anyone know how long it takes the shiners to go away after the allergy is addressed? We’ve been on a strict diet for a month now and the shiners are still there. I’m wondering if she is still coming in contact with something she’s allergic to, or if we just need to give it more time.

  4. Dawn says:

    This was an interesting read. I came across this looking for why my son has shiners with his croup. It makes sense that croup impacts breathing, thus the dark circles under his eyes. I’ll be concerned if this remains after he’s deemed healthy again. Now, I want to know why I’ve had dark circles under my left eye for the last 30 years.

  5. Sim says:

    My son has these on and off and have yet to pin point whats behind it. I will try a few of you suggestions! He has been off Gluten since he was 1.5 years (now 4), which seemed to get rid of the excess mucus when he was young. At the moment though, mucus and shadows. Not sick, but its spring, perhaps its simply allergies and we will need to wash and clean more? I sporadically get Raw milk and probiotics for him. Hoping he won’t need probiotics for life. He is a great eater and sleeper. Just wondering what your thoughts are on prolonged use of probiotics? Would it stop his gut from producing and maintaining a healthy level for itself?

  6. Tricia says:

    So pleased I found this site. My son is 11 he’s had shiners for the past 6 years, only noticeable in winter when he’s paler. We had blood test done, asked doctor twice, told he just has thin skin, seen ent, tonsils and adenoids fine. He was a preemie, 1.9kg @ 35weeks, maybe this is why??? I’m going to start him on a daily good bacteria yoghurt for a few weeks, if that helps I’ll continue, if not we will arrange an allergy test, does this sound like a good plan?

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Yes, the idea is great; however, you need to be aware that most commercial yogurts have only one strain of bacteria and are usually loaded with sugar which makes them counter-productive. It’s usually better to make your own or get a good quality probiotic with at least a few strains. Even better might be homemade sauerkraut which tends to have very high levels of a wide variety of beneficial bacteria. (The more recent info on this seems to show that diversity, i.e. a wide variety of strains, is more important than the particular strains.) You might want to consider “Restore” as well, to help tighten up the “tight junctions” of the gut, making it less permeable.

      Also be aware that there are several different types of immunoglobulin that can signal different manifestations for the sensitivities, and most doctors only test one. It’s quite possible that there are sensitivities that he/she missed. Gut healing is a great place to start, but you might want to consider NAET as well. Lots of people have gotten good results for difficult to diagnose sensitivities from this very simple technique. Good luck!

      • Kazz Bell says:

        Can you please tell me what restore is ?

      • ProfessorTMR says:

        Restore is an oral supplement with very little taste that acts on the tight junctions of the gut to help the gut heal and behave the way it is supposed to. If you’re interested in the topic, it is very worthwhile to read Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to understand what can happen when the gut is compromised and why we should wish to heal it.

        http://restore4life.com/

  7. Jenna says:

    This article is pretty judgmental and closed-minded. Allergies are not the only reason for dark circles under the eyes. For example, my daughter was a micro-preemie (born at 1 lb 2 oz) and has dark circles under her eyes due to the extended use of supplemental oxygen (which saved her life by the way).

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      “Judgmental”? We don’t judge people with allergies here, and we certainly don’t judge micro-preemies. Most of us either suffer with allergies or have children who do. We simply provide information for people who don’t have it already. And the article doesn’t say that dark circles are the ONLY reason for dark circles, but you have to admit that micro-preemies are not very common at about 1-2% of all children while 8% of U.S. have one or more food allergies alone. Add in all the other kinds of allergies, and the percentage rises. Allergies may not be responsible for your child’s dark circles, but they are for most children’s. Obviously, you don’t need the information in the article, but many people do.

      • NewMama11 says:

        Hello! This article is great. My husband is a skeptic when it comes to principles such as “allergies shiners are indicators of an internal imbalance.” He’s a logic guy. A science guy. Can you please share where you got this information so I can show him myself? Or so he can read about if?

      • ProfessorTMR says:

        Hmmmm… logic and science, huh? Well, I was a Physics major in college, and when I graduated I got an 800 on the logic section of the GRE, so you could say I’m a logic and science gal. The fact that these things are called “allergic shiners” indicates that it has long been well known that they are strongly correlated to allergies. This is from the very mainstream medical show “The Doctors”: http://www.thedoctorstv.com/articles/574-allergic-shiners.

        Now, what is an allergy? An allergy is the immune system reacting to something which is harmless. It is also well known that people with a tendency to allergy (it’s called atopy) have an imbalance in their immune systems. TH1 and TH2 cells should be in balance, but in atopic individuals, the immune system is skewed to the TH2: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9530557.

        Now, take it further for your logic and science guy who should be interested in WHY this is happening and why it is happening SO MUCH today. He may be interested in the history of “allergy,” which word was first coined when Von Pirquet and Schick were studying the phenomenon of “serum sickness” around the turn of the 20th century. Here is a quickie history to get him started: http://thinkingmomsrevolution.com/vaccines-allergy-autoimmunity-autism/.

    • Jason says:

      Get a grip, Jenna. This forum doesn’t need your negativity.

  8. Kate says:

    My son has dark circles under his eyes and I have noticed them getting worse. He has an appointment soon and I think they will be checking his hemoglobin.Maybe anemic?..my son does not eat great doesn’t like meat so we try anyway we can to get him to eat meat (even acting like a dinosaur) but I am going to try Pedia sure drinks, staying on top of vitamins,and making sure he is getting more water. He does like milk going to take the allergies into consideration and talk to the doctor about it. Thank you for posting made me feel better . Everything I was reading on the Internet was scaring me.

    • Renato says:

      Meat is not a necessity for protein.
      Give him beans, kidney beans , brown beans etc. Meat is really overrated.
      Maybe some fish for him?
      Or a whole egg couple of times in the week.
      Look careful for what it might cause.

      Did you know that the old Roman gladiators ate mainly vegetarian?
      Beans, barly and fruit.Those men had much stronger bones than average..
      That’s what they found.

  9. Renato says:

    I get dark circles below my eyes after eating chocolate or cacao powder(strong drink).
    This results after only 30 minutes of ingesting it.

    Tough luck.

    The kid in the pic has not extreme dark circles in my opinion.
    I have this naturally as well.
    It is only with the cacao, theobromin or whatever substance is in it that makes my eyes go extreme.

    Give a bar of chocolate to a dog and it gets very sick at least.
    So I don’t think I miss too much on this.

  10. Carly says:

    Just a heads up, allergic shiners in children can often a be a sign of sleep apnea as well. If the kiddos are snoring on top of having that look, it should be discussed strongly with their pediatrician, or more so an ENT. Kids should NOT be snoring.

  11. lauren says:

    consider looking into iodine deficiency. it’s a little controversial, but i don’t think this group is afraid of a little controversy! best of luck to you all. Iodine/thyroid deficiency won’t show up on the usual HMO-approved blood tests, you’ll have to go more from the clinical picture and/or find a doctor who thinks outside the box and has access to “alternative” testing. [I’m 50 and just now piecing together a lifelong picture of chronic subclinical iodine deficiency, the first clue was these shiners in a photo of myself age 4.]

  12. kathy garza says:

    My son has had them since birth and is currently 4 1/2 yes old. No food allergies at all. And isn’t ever sick. His allergies act up when mine do. Been seen by MD nothing wrong with him. PS I have also had them since birth I’m currently 28. So thankfully with us there isn’t a more serious issue.

  13. Karin de Vos says:

    My son allergic shiners were there from 3 months (he is now 20). Yes he was allergic to milk, soy, eggs and wheat; and anaphylactic to peanuts. And another major allergy polyester picked up by a hair sample test. Now he is better and can use all these foods and substances. We had to address the cause – emotional stress (things he experienced while in uterine) as well as the allergies. I recommend naturopaths and emotional release techniques like The Lifeline Texhnique. It’s worth it : )

    • micah says:

      THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! I need all this info, as I am becoming aware of dye/preservatives/sugar having a noticeable immediate effect on my almost 3 yr old who has had these shiners, not sure how long, at least a year. Just learned starting solids before 6 mo or when baby is able to sit on own can cause allergies later in life. My first daughter has suffered since conception, born 2.5 mo early, we moved away from DV a year ago. Going to print this article to take to Dr. appt. She has recently been getting rash on face after foods as well as behavioral effects and developmental delays.

    • Madhuri says:

      Hi,
      This is in response to a comment you made in thinking mims revolution a while ago. What other things you have used other than the lifeline technique? I live in US. My son has dark circles, medical and developmental issues.
      Thanks

  14. mathma says:

    My son had allergic shiners before 1 year old and I wasn’t sure what it was. He was developing normally, though not advanced in any way. By age two, he had regressed into Autism.
    Thankfully, through GF and GAPS diet, he is slowly coming back to us but at age 3.5, he is still severely speech delayed and retains symptoms of autism. We are hoping to recover him completely, but try to remain realistic at the same time. And yes, he did receive many vaccines including the first MMR before his 1st birthday.

  15. Anna says:

    My husband always wondered how I knew if our son had had dairy. Exactly this. Dark bruised eyes.

    Get the bucket he’s going to vomit soon.

  16. marie says:

    My daughter had the same circles, then started the tantrums, throwing up, fatigue. The culprit: SOY. Took soy out of her diet, she returned to her normal happy self. This would not show up on a conventional test, because technically she is not allergic, her pancreas cannot process soy. Once its in her body, it takes about 10 (challenging) days for her to return to normal. This was not diagnosed by a conventional Dr….he didnt have a clue.

    Thanks for sharing your story. So many people dont believe that food can cause these symptoms. The problem lies with how that food it grown and manufactured today, sad but true.

  17. Erin says:

    hmmm. my one son has the dark circles under his eyes sometimes worse the other days. we are off gluten as of right now and his behavior can be so sporadic as well good and bad days. does anyone k ow of any tests to ask for to test for allergies? thanks

  18. Pingback: Allergic Shiners | Recovery Road

  19. Leah dawson says:

    I have had the dark circles under my eyes since I was young. Later in my teens, I would complain to my mother about my circles and she said that she was told that the doctor assumed (when I was a baby) that I was allergic to “something” but wasn’t aware of what exactly.
    Fast forward to me presently, I have Celiac disease, lactose intolerance, anemia, and antibiotic resistance. None of my symptoms became forward until I got a series of shots at the age of 22. I dropped weight, serious bowel issues, darker circles under my eyes and contracted multiple parasites due to my lowered immune system. My toddler son has the same dark circles and both my kids are not vaccinated. I will not pass on them my diseases and problems by injecting them with inflammation adjuvants. good article!

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