Child Eye Health and Safety Month
Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L
For many local families, school begins this week! While you prepare to head back to school, you have probably made an appointment for your child’s annual physical, or well-child visit. It is important to remember that your children’s eyes and vision should also be evaluated regularly. August is Child Eye Health and Safety Month, so it’s the perfect time to talk about vision screens, eye exams, and eye safety.
- The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that infants have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. InfantSEE is a program that offers free eye exams to children ages 6-12 months. Check out their website to find a local optometrist that participates.
- Children should have additional eye exams at age 3, and just before they enter the first grade — at about age 5 or 6.
- For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses or contact lenses should be examined annually, or as recommended by their optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Early eye examinations are crucial to make sure children have normal, healthy vision so they can perform better at school and play! Common signs of vision troubles in children include: frequently rubbing eyes, squinting, tilting or turning head to look at objects, wandering eyes, or squeezing eyes. If you're child displays any of these symptoms, please schedule an appointment to have their eyes checked. Amblyopia (lazy eye), Strabismus (crossed eyes), color deficiency (color blindness), and refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism) are the most common conditions that can affect a child's vision. Many of these conditions, if diagnosed early, can be treated and vision can be restored. If the condition is not diagnosed until later in life, treatment will not be as effective.
While school vision screenings are a helpful tool that can detect some vision problems, there are limitations to these screenings. An in-school vision screen should not replace comprehensive eye exams at regular intervals as outlined above. If a vision screening detects problems, or if you have concerns, you may be referred to an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, depending on the concerns you have. To read about what to expect at your child’s eye exam, check out this website.
For more information on children’s vision development, signs of problems, and ideas to support and improve vision development, check out the American Optometric Association’s website and the College of Optometrists in Vision Development’s website.
Eye safety is just as important as eye health. Every year thousands of children sustain an eye injury - 90 percent of which can be prevented if suitable protective eyewear is used. Check out Matt’s blog this week to read about the eclipse, including how to protect your eyes from irreversible damage!