Causes for under-eye circles

Q: What could cause dark under-eye circles in my toddler?

A: The area under eyes has thin and delicate skin, which often will easily show the capillary bed, which can show up in the form of dark, under-eye circles. 

Among young children, the most common cause is nasal congestion. This can be caused by allergies, smoke exposure, a recent upper-respiratory tract infection or, more commonly, a few upper-respiratory tract infections in a row. 

Dietary sensitivity doesn’t typically cause dark circles under eyes unless children are ill with significant weight loss due to food intolerance. 

For toddlers who are at risk for repeated viral infections — because of their tendency to touch every surface and then later put their fingers in their mouths — focus on hand washing, cleaning off surfaces that multiple children are playing on and decrease exposure to other children when your kids aren’t feeling well. 

And don’t forget to get your flu shots!

Dr. Gigi Chawla is a board-certified pediatrician and the senior medical director of primary care at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Send your questions to