As a parent, you want what’s best for your child in every way possible. You ensure they’re eating healthy foods, getting enough exercise, and getting a good night’s sleep. But have you ever thought about their vision? Like the rest of their body, your child’s eyes need care and attention to stay healthy.
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 10% of preschoolers and 25% of school-aged children have vision problems. Many of these problems can be corrected or improved if caught early. That’s why being proactive about your child’s eye health is so essential. So, how can you ensure your child’s eyes are healthy? Here are a few tips to help you.
1. Schedule Regular Checkups
The first step in keeping your child’s eyes healthy is to take them for regular checkups with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Infants should have their first eye exam at 6 months old and then again at 3 years old. After that, kids should have their vision checked every two years until they turn 18. However, if your child has any risk factors for eye problems—such as a family history of vision problems or a medical condition like diabetes—they may need to be seen more often.
Ask your doctor about how often your child should have their eyes checked. Depending on their individual needs, they may need to be seen more (or less) often than the general recommendations. You can also talk to your child’s doctor about ways to correct or improve any vision problems they may have.
2. Correct Any Refractive Errors
If your child is found to have a refractive error, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, they will need to wear corrective lenses. This can be in the form of glasses or contact lenses. You can sometimes correct refractive errors with LASIK surgery, but this is only recommended for patients over 18.
Some children are hesitant to wear corrective lenses, but it’s important that they do. Not only will this help improve their vision, but it will also help protect their eyes from further damage. Talk to your child about why it’s essential to wear their glasses or contacts and help them pick a pair they like. If they’re having trouble getting used to them, ask their doctor for tips on how to make the adjustment easier.
3. Encourage Good Habits
You can also do things at home to help keep your child’s eyes healthy. One of the most important things you can do is to encourage good habits, such as not rubbing their eyes and not reading in low light. It would be best if you also taught them to take breaks when looking at screens—such as TVs, phones, and computers—since too much screen time can lead to digital eye strain.
Eating a healthy diet and exercising are also necessary for eye health. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, while exercise can help improve circulation and reduce eye pressure. A good night’s sleep is also crucial for eye health, so ensure your child gets enough rest each night.
4. Know the Signs of Trouble
Of course, no matter how well you care for your child’s eyes, problems can still arise. That’s why it’s essential to know the signs of trouble so you can get them the help they need right away. Some common symptoms of vision problems in children include squinting, tilting their head to one side, holding objects close to their face, or having difficulty reading or doing other close-up work. If you notice any of these signs, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with an eye doctor immediately.
Some signs are more serious and require immediate medical attention. These include severe headaches, pain or pressure in the eyes, double vision, loss of vision in one eye, seeing flashes of light, or any sudden vision change. If you notice any of these signs, call your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.
5. Protect Their Eyes
From the sun, that is. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is one of the leading causes of vision problems, including cataracts and macular degeneration. You can help protect your child’s eyes by ensuring they always wear sunglasses or a hat with a brim when they’re outside. You should also take care to protect your child’s eyes from other potential hazards. For example, never let them play with fireworks, and make sure they wear protective eyewear when participating in sports
Your child’s vision is important—not just for their overall health but also for their development and success in school. By taking them for regular checkups and teaching them good habits at home, you can help keep their eyes healthy now and into the future. And if you ever notice any trouble, don’t hesitate to seek professional help immediately.