Children’s Eye Health and Safety
July 18, 2016
Tags: eye care, optometry, back to school, eyes, children
By Stephanie K. LeSage, O.D., Optometrist
With school right around the corner and summer coming to an end, many people start thinking about the health of their childrens’ eyes. Though many schools and pediatricians provide vision screenings, screenings are no substitute for a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. A comprehensive eye exam can catch both vision and health problems that were overlooked during screenings, including retinoblastoma (type of eye cancer), strabismus (eye turn or crossed eyes), and amblyopia (lazy eye). The recommended frequency of eye exams is different depending on the child’s age and risk factors.
How often should my child been seen for an eye examination?
Birth to 24 months
- Risk free: At 6 months of age
- At risk: By 6 months of age or as recommended
2 to 5 years
- Risk free: At 3 years of age
- At risk: At 3 years of age or as recommended
6 to 18 years
- Risk free: Before 1st grade and every 2 years afterwards
- At risk: Once a year or as recommended
What puts my child at risk for abnormal eye development or vision problems?
This is a list of common risk factors but by no means comprehensive
- Premature birth, low birth weight, oxygen at birth, grade III or IV intraventricular hemorrhage
- Family history of childhood vision problems, retinoblastoma, congenital cataracts, or metabolic or genetic disease
- Infection of mother during pregnancy (e.g. rubella, toxoplasmosis, venereal disease, herpes, cytomegalovirus, or AIDS)
- High refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism)
- Known or suspected central nervous system dysfunction
What are other signs I should be worried about?
- Crossed eyes (one or both eyes turning inward or outward)
- Squinting while watching TV or looking at the board in school
- Disinterest in reading or looking at distant objects
- Unusual head turn while reading or looking at distant objects
What are easy ways I can keep my child’s eyes safe?
- Wear sunglasses and/or hats while outdoors during the daytime. Sunglasses should block 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B rays.
- Wear protective eyewear while participating in sports or recreational activities. Order polycarbonate lenses if your child is required to wear glasses- it’s the most impact resistant lens material currently available.
- If you suspect that your child has an eye infection, immediately wash your child’s towels and linens and have them practice frequent handwashing to help prevent spreading the infection to others. Also take your child to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist for proper diagnosis and treatment.
If you notice any unusual eye or vision signs in your child or are wanting to stay on track with their normal eye exam schedule, we’re happy to take care of your family’s eyes here at Whittier Street Health Center. We can accommodate children as young as 5 years of age and older. To contact the Eye Care/Optometry Department, call 617-989-3058, or schedule an appointment online at https://wshc.org/make-an-appointment/