August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month! To celebrate, we are sharing some little known facts eye care for children and infants.
Most parents don’t know that children should have their first eye exam when they’re only 6 months old.
“I’ve seen many times where diagnosing and treating an eye disorder early in life meant a positive outcome for the child,” says Richard Hultz, pediatric and adult therapist at Care First Rehab.
Infants and young children generally don’t let their parents know they are experiencing problems seeing, simply because they may not know what “good eye sight” is. So how do you know if your child needs eyeglasses?
Infants should visit an eye doctor if:
- After 3 months of age, they don’t focus well on objects.
- Their eyes are not straight.
- They have a droopy eyelid.
- There is a family history of serious eye problems.
- Their eyes water excessively.
Children should have an eye exam if:
- There is red eye, with or without discharge.
- They complain of blurry distant vision.
- They blink excessively.
- They have headaches or double vision.
Additional signs are:
- Squinting. The classic symptom of either nearsightedness (not seeing well far away) or farsightedness (not seeing well close-up). Glasses are probably in order.
- One eye. If your child closes one eye and it helps him or her see better, there could be a structural problem like astigmatism.
- Eye rubbing. If your child rubs his or her eyes, see the eye doctor. There may be some eyestrain going on and glasses can help.
- Sitting too close to the television. Moving closer to the television or lowering the head while reading a book are signs your child may be nearsighted and that glasses are needed.
- Losing place while reading. If your child is having trouble reading due to skipping lines or losing her place, she may have an eye muscle problem or vision problem such as astigmatism.
- Frequent headaches. Frontal headaches or brow aches are often a result of uncorrected farsightedness. The child may be attempting clear their blurry vision, but instead his or her efforts result in headaches.
A suggested timeline for early childhood eye exams:
Babies’ vision goes through many changes in the first months after birth. And up to 25 percent of schoolchildren may have vision problems that can affect their ability to learn.
- At 6 months. It’s best to find a specialist in treating young children. This exam mostly checks basic working order and structure of the eyes – to make sure they’re developing properly. The doctor will also check that the eyes are working well together. And, that they’re free of rare but serious problems — such as cataracts and tumors — that could hinder vision.
- Between 2 and 3 years. The doctor will check for signs of developmental eye problems, like “lazy eye,” crossed eyes (strabismus), nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. If the doctor finds a problem, helpful therapy can usually start right away. This is important, so kids may avoid wearing corrective items, such as an eye patch, when they go to school.
- Pre-K. Just before kindergarten, the doctor will check for visual acuity and prescribe glasses if needed.
Make sure your child has a yearly eye exam. Thanks to annual eye exams, the eye doctor can keep tabs on vision changes as well as provide early vision correction.