It is important for parents to help their children develop and maintain excellent eyesight, but it isn’t always easy. Here is where to start.
The first thing to remember is to protect your child’s eyes from accidental injury. An eye injury can happen at any time, in any place. Almost 50 percent of eye injuries occur during sports and recreational activities, but severe injuries can also occur with household items and toys.
Objects with sharp edges like darts, fish hooks and scissors, and recreational toys like paint ball guns and BB guns can all pose a risk. Even cleaning products in the home can cause significant damage and eye irritation if sprayed in the face.
The athletic activities with the highest risk for eye injuries are those that use high velocity balls, such asracquetball, squash, tennis, soccer, golf, baseball, basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, water polo, and hockey.
The best form of eye protection for recreational activities is protective eyewear in a sports-specific frame with polycarbonate lenses to absorb the force of a possible impact. Some sports also benefit from use of a face shield.
If your child experiences an eye injury, you should contact your ophthalmologist immediately. Some forms of injury benefit from flushing the eyes at home while others are better treated in the emergency room or in the ophthalmologist’s office.
In our virtual, remote-work world, kids are requiring more and more screen time just to learn and develop. While the ability to engage is extremely important, prolonged screen time can lead to digital eye strain.
Your child may be experiencing digital eye strain if they complain of eye pain, itchy eyes, dry eyes, blurry vision, or headaches during or shortly after screen-related activities. The screens themselves are not causing damage to the eye. It is the constant near focus and the fact that people do not blink as often when engaged in close work that leads to symptoms of digital eye strain.
There are a few solutions available to manage the sensation of digital eye strain so that your child can continue using screens when they need to.
Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, have your child take a break and look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. You may need to set timers as a reminder. This is also a good time to encourage blinking. Also, try to persuade your child to hold their screen at least 18 – 24 inches away. For many kids this is about an arm’s length away.
Good lighting is key. Make sure to adjust the screen brightness and contrast for comfort. It is also important to have adequate room lighting but avoid extremely bright areas that could cause significant glare.
Keeping up with regular vision screenings
The American Association of Pediatrics and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) recommend vision screening periodically throughout childhood in order to diagnose and treat vision problems in children before they lead to permanent vision loss.
Pediatricians, family practitioners, nurses, and other health care providers can perform vision screening examinations as a part of the regular well-child office visits. Some daycares, churches, schools, and health departments offer vision screening services as well.
There are a variety of different types of vision screening examinations to help assess children at all ages. Some involve a specialized camera while others rely on a child’s ability to identify figures or letters on a chart.
Vision screening examinations can help identify common problems like amblyopia (decreased vision in one or both eyes due to abnormal vision development in infancy or childhood), strabismus (eye misalignment), and refractive errors like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. These examinations can also help detect more serious problems like tumors and neurological disorders.If a potential eye or vision problem is identified on a vision screening examination, your child will likely then be referred to an ophthalmologist for a formal evaluation. Early detection of eye and vision issues in children is extremely important. An early diagnosis can lead to earlier and possibly more effective treatment. Effective treatment of childhood vision problems can allow the child build strong visual connections from the eye to the brain, supporting the potential for healthy vision to last a lifetime.