As the new year is just around the corner and holiday breaks from school are in full swing, now is a great time to evaluate your child’s eye care needs. Having your child checked and treated for any vision problems he or she may have is crucial for their health. Visual skills are a vital part of learning, and vision problems can impede upon your child’s success in school and in life.
Visual skills your child needs include eye movement skills, hand/eye coordination, near and distance vision, and focusing skills. Nearsighted, farsightedness, and astigmatism can hinder your child’s development of these skills, and regular optometry exams can help ensure your child develops these important visual skills as they are starting out in life.
Here are 3 times when your child should visit the optometrist:
1. Your Child is Just Starting Out in Life
The American Optometric Association says 6 months of age is around when infant children should receive a comprehensive eye exam. Their second and third eye exams should come when the child is 3 years old, and then later around 5 or 6 years old when the child is entering kindergarten or first grade. Although many schools provide vision screenings, they often miss vision problems.
Depending on whether or not you need glasses or contact lenses, they should be receiving an optometry exam every year two years or annually. Children with glasses usually receive annual eye exams, or whatever their eye doctor recommends. Children who do not require vision correction usually receive an eye exam every two years, which is recommended by the American Optometric Association.
2. Your Child is Showing Vision Problems
Signs that your child has vision problems include if they avoid visual activities (including coloring and puzzles), they sit too close to the TV, they have a short attention span for their age, they are sensitive to light, they struggle with hand/eye coordination (such as when playing with a ball) or if they squint, rub their eyes often, or tilt their head.
As children continue to develop during their school years, eye doctors will be checking for farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism. Activities that can help prevent vision problems in your child can include playing games that include shapes, numbers, or jigsaw puzzles, all of which involve visual problem-solving. Throwing a ball or Frisbee can help improve hand/eye coordination.
3. Your Child Contracts Pink Eye
Mild redness in your child’s eye, as well as itching or discharge, could be symptoms of pink eye (when the conjunctiva becomes inflamed), a highly contagious virus, and your eye doctor should be contacted to inquire about treatment.
Not all eye redness or itching is necessarily pinkeye, as other causes could include seasonal allergies. However, if your child is experiencing yellow or green eye discharge, a high fever, severe light sensitivity, blurry vision, double vision, light halos (rings of light surrounding objects) in their vision, vision loss, shaking chills, or face pain, seek immediate treatment by an eye doctor, or possibly at an emergency room if an eye doctor cannot be contacted.