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Start the School Year with Clear Vision & Healthy Eyes

Start the School Year with Clear Vision & Healthy Eyes

August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. As a parent, consider adding vision and eye health to your child’s back-to-school list. One in 4 children have a vision problem, and 60 percent of children with learning difficulties have an undetected vision problem. Each year as children grow, their eyes do, too. Between screen time, reading, writing, and occasional accidents, checking your child’s vision before they go back to school can detect signs of vision problems.

Give your kids the vision to succeed in school this year by learning the signs of vision problems and how to prevent common eye injuries.

How Do I Know If My Child Has a Vision Problem?

Good vision and eye health are crucial to children’s learning and development. Success in school is closely tied to eye health, so pay close attention to your child’s eye behavior. As your child’s vision continues to develop, they must have their eyes checked to detect issues that can be prevented or corrected before they become more severe. Here are helpful ways to spot eye health issues in children:

  • Constant Squinting - Children squinting to see can not only strain their eyes but also cause persistent headaches and eventual frustration.
  • Favoring One Eye Over the Other - If a child is turning their head or using one eye to look at something, this could be a sign that one eye is weaker than the other, or the eye has a refractive error such as astigmatism.
  • Short Attention Span - When children are involved in games, projects, or activities requiring visual concentration, they might lose interest quickly due to eye strain.
  • Trouble Reading - Children with eye issues may experience difficulty with reading, losing their place while reading, holding the book too close to their face, or a general lack of interest in reading.

If your child is experiencing any of these signs of eye health issues, contact your eye doctor to schedule an eye exam. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also offers a fun Kids’ Quest: Vision Impairment activity for kids and their parents to learn more about the impact of vision impairment.

How Can I Prevent Eye Injuries?

Every year, thousands of children sustain an eye injury—90% of these injuries can be prevented by using suitable protective eyewear. Sports and recreation, toys, and falls can cause an eye injury. Protect your child’s eyes by following these steps:

  • Harmful Chemicals - Keep toxic chemicals and sprays out of reach of children. Many households have chemical cleaners in reachable cabinets. Placing locks or childproofing areas with chemicals and sprays will help reduce the chance of eye injury or other severe injuries.
  • Prevent Use of Firearms - Do not allow children to play with BB guns, pellet guns, and other firearms. These are no longer considered toys or for use by children. If you own firearms like these, ensure that they are lock-protected and out of sight/reach.
  • Proper Hygiene - Encourage your child to wash their hands after playing outside or near dust to prevent them from rubbing foreign substances into their eyes.
  • Safe Use of Household Items - Teach and practice safe use of everyday household items such as scissors, paper clips, rubber bands, pencils, and wire coat hangers.
  • Sports Protection - When playing sports or physical activities, wear polycarbonate protective eyewear to prevent eye injuries from dirt, grass, sweat, or blood getting in your child’s eyes.

How Can I Maintain Healthy Eyes?

Keeping your child’s eyes healthy and injury-free means preparation. Help your child maintain healthy eyes by:

  1. Scheduling regular eye exams and screenings
    Your child should have an eye exam when they are first born to check their reflexes, during infancy for an overall eye exam, during preschool age for a vision and eye alignment exam, and during school-age for visual acuity, alignment, and overall health. As children grow, continue regular eye exams to detect potential issues before they become severe. And, if you suspect your child is showing any of the symptoms of eye problems listed earlier in this article, call a doctor immediately.
  1. Providing a healthy diet
    Foods such as carrots are rich in beta-carotene and vitamin A, which help with night vision and overall eye health, and protect against eye diseases and infections. Berries are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants, which support healthy eye growth and light reactiveness. Nuts are high in vitamin E, supporting the body’s ability to absorb beta-carotene. Providing a balanced and healthy diet will help to keep eye muscles and tissue strong and healthy. If your child is allergic to these foods, consult with their doctor on suitable alternatives.
  2. Reducing technology and screen time
    How much time should your children spend using devices such as computers, tablets, and cell phones? An excessive amount of screen time for young children can put them at risk for early myopia (a refractive error that causes blurred vision to distant objects) and computer vision syndrome (a collection of eye-related issues such as dry eye, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and headaches).

To prevent these issues, encourage your children to take 20- to 30-second breaks every 20 minutes they spend in front of a screen, make sure their desk is adjusted to their body size or the screen is at least 18 to 28 inches away from their face, and prevent eye strain by matching the light of the device screen to the light of the room. Most phones and tablets have night shift options that turn on automatically and adjust the device’s color temperature to protect the eyes.

What First Aid Tips for Young Eyes Should I Follow?

When a severe injury to the eyes occurs, seek immediate medical attention. A quick response significantly reduces the chance of the injury becoming more severe. While seeking medical help, follow these tips to prevent further harm:

  • A cut or puncture wound should be gently covered.
  • DO NOT apply ointment or medication to the eye.
  • DO NOT attempt to remove any object stuck in the eye. For small, non-serious debris, gently lift the eyelid and ask the child to blink rapidly to see if tears will flush out debris. If this does not work, close the eye and wait for a medical professional.
  • DO NOT touch, rub, or apply pressure to the eye.
  • If the eye was struck or hit with force,DO NOT apply any pressure to the eye and gently apply a cold compress to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Only in the event of chemical exposure, flush eye with plenty of water.

If an injury to the eyes occurs, have an ophthalmologist, primary care doctor, school nurse, or a children’s health professional examine your child’s eyes as soon as possible.