August is the time to prep your child for going back to school. Coincidentally, it’s also Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month! Visit your family eye doctor to ensure your child’s vision is in excellent shape for a successful school year.
Maintaining healthy vision is crucial for proper development. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children partake in regular eye exams beginning at six months old. At age three, children should have their first visual acuity test to determine whether or not they need glasses. From that point on, children who wear glasses should visit an eye doctor annually, whereas children who don’t need glasses should visit an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) every two years to monitor any changes in eyesight.
Visits to the eye doctor can prevent such diseases as lazy eye, crossed eyes, and color blindness. While newborns are typically examined for congenital eye problems, there are some warning signs to look out for if you haven’t already scheduled your child’s first eye exam or if you suspect your young child needs glasses.
Warning signs your child may have vision impairments
- They are unable to follow an object with their eyes
- They have difficulty reading
- Their eyes don’t line up together or track
- They sit too close to the television or computer screen
- They hold books too close to their face
- They squint or close one eye to see better
If your child exhibits any of these tendencies, it may be a sign that they need glasses. A visit to the eye doctor should determine the next course of action or if corrective surgery is necessary.
How to keep your children’s eyes healthy
- Visit the eye doctor regularly. As mentioned previously, regular eye exams are as important as your child’s yearly physical exam. As children develop, their habits change — they may be spending more and more time indoors and close to a computer screen than before, which is why their eyesight should be monitored both at home and by a doctor.
- Eat colorful foods. A healthy diet contributes to healthy eyesight. Foods — especially leafy green vegetables and fruits— that contain zinc, vitamin C and E, and omega-3 fatty acids contribute to protecting the eyes, rebuilding tissue, and warding off diseases and health conditions that could negatively impact eyesight such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Wear protective eyewear. School is a great time to get involved in athletics. However, sports can pose a risk of eye injury. Elbows, trips, bumps and little accidents can potentially damage the eyes and inflict long-term damage. Ask your child’s eye doctor to recommend help you choose appropriate protective eyewear.
- Play outside. Exposing your children’s eyes to the beauty of the outdoors can be beneficial in the development process. Stimulating their eyesight is extremely beneficial for developing eye muscles as well as hand-eye coordination. And research suggests that spending around 14 hours per week outdoors can reduce the likelihood that children with myopic parents will themselves need eyeglasses.
- Limit screen time. Technology is hard to get away from, but it’s recommended that growing children (adults too) limit their screen time throughout the day. High glare screens can cause eye strain and blurry vision. Besides that, looking at too many devices for prolonged periods can lead to dry eyes and trouble seeing from a distance. Try an anti-glare screen cover, or encourage your child to step away from their devices every few minutes.
If you think your child may need glasses, or if you simply want a headstart on your child’s next eye exam, visit a Swedish primary care physician or pediatrician near you.
Visit Parentelligence, the pediatrics section of our blog, for more insights and advice about parenting and children’s health.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.