For a child’s yearly physicals you visit a pediatrician but what about for their eye exams? If you’re relying on the eye screenings offered at schools, you’ll definitely want to reconsider. It’s so important to have either an optometrist (doctor of optometry) or ophthalmologist (medical doctor and surgeon) examine the health of your child’s eyes. Near vision isn’t tested in the simple eye screenings offered in schools and it’s near vision that’s especially important for reading books and seeing the computer screen. Also, some of the most common children’s vision problems such as eye coordination, lazy eye and farsightedness can be missed. The only way to truly know that your kid’s eyes are healthy is to keep up with eye exams.
Sometimes we assume our little ones will tell us if something like their eyesight is bothering them but this is problematic. They could have always experienced poor vision and not realize that better vision is possible. Also, the verbal abilities in children can be so limiting when it comes to describing their internal experiences. 80% of learning happens visually but 86% of children entering school haven’t had an eye exam. It’s time to change that.
When Should I Schedule My Child’s Eye Exams?
The recommendations for children’s eye exams might be surprise you. I know I was surprised and I’m in the industry! According to the American Optometric Association, at a bare minimum you should have your kid’s eyes examined:
- At six months of age
- At three years of age
- Before entering school
- Once in school, eyes should be examined on a regular basis to ensure kids’ eye problems don’t go undetected, even if there is no family history of eye issues. This means every two years or annually if they do have a problem.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Vision Problems in Kids?
In addition to regular eye exams, there are a few red flags parents can watch for that may indicate their child is experiencing vision problems. These include:
- Holding reading materials too close to the face
- Avoiding reading books or watching television
- Visible frustration or grimacing when attempting to read or watch TV
- Watery, red or itchy eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Squinting, rubbing the eyes or blinking excessively
- An eye that constantly turns
- Covering or closing one eye when trying to see something
- Complaining about headaches
- Tracing words with the fingers when reading
If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with an eye care professional immediately.
How to Keep Children’s Eyes Healthy
So how do you maintain your kids’ eye health? Adopt the following positive habits:
- Get those eye exams done regularly!
- Feed them a balanced diet high in beta-carotene. If your pediatrician recommends it, your child may also take vitamin supplements.
- Make sure they’re getting regular exercise.
- Have your kids drink eight to ten glasses of water daily, which plays a role in keeping their eyes hydrated.
- If your child is watching television, staring at a computer screen or reading for extended periods of time, encourage them to blink frequently and take short breaks to rest their eyes.
- Try to discourage them from rubbing their eyes.
- Considering the eye lens of a child under 10 allows more than six times the amount of UV radiation to pass through than an adult’s eye lens, it’s imperative that you protect your little’s eyes and skin when they’re outside with wide-brimmed hats that shade the eyes, ears, face and neck, sunglasses and sunscreen.
- When selecting everyday eyewear, consider Transitions They automatically block 100 percent of UV rays and reduce glare without the need to switch back and forth between glasses and sunglasses. It’s hard enough keeping track of one pair of a child’s specs.
Okay, so if you haven’t managed to follow the exact appointment schedule (hey, I haven’t been 100% on schedule with my own kids), there’s no time like the present and it’s not too late to get on track. Set up an eye exam for your kids, look for the warning signs of problems and incorporate healthy vision habits. Early detection is always best. If your child does need glasses, there is no need to worry. The stigma is fading and the fashion and technology in kids’ eyewear has come a long way. At my Vancouver optical store, The Spectacle Shoppe, I’ve been procuring frames that will make kids look good and see even better. We can also adapt and modify fit for the best possible results. Check out our kids’ eyewear collection and be sure to stop by The Spectacle Shoppe in Kerrisdale so we can find the perfect glasses or sunglasses for your little one.
Morgan is The Spectacle Shoppe’s Lead Technician and Customer Relations Specialist as well as a Principle of Spectacle Shoppe. She is a licensed contact lens fitter and dispensing optician and has been working for The Spectacle Shoppe since 2006. She graduated from Douglas College’s two year Dispensing Optician and Contact Lens Fitting Program in 2008. From contact lens fitting to eyeglass repairs and adjustments Morgan is eager to help you with any optical needs. Connect with Morgan Nahanee on Google+