National Children’s Eye Health & Safety Month is a time to help raise awareness and educate parents on the importance of eye health. This month also emphasizes the need for parents to have their children’s eyes checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. In fact, many schools require that students receive annual eye exams before they are allowed back in school.

Why should you take action to protect your children’s eyes?

Did you know that about 3 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 years old live with uncorrected vision problems? National Children’s Eye Health & Safety Month also emphasizes the need for parents to have their children’s eyes checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Warning Signs that a Child May be Experiencing Vision Problems

  • Tilting the head or squinting to see the class board better or when watching TV
  • Frequent eye rubbing when he’s trying to concentrate on something.
  • Holding a book too close to his eyes or often sitting close to the TV.
  • Consistently using his fingers to guide his eyes when reading.
  • Closing one eye to read or watch TV.
  • Excessive tearing without any tear-causing stimuli.
  • Eye discomfort when using a computer or any digital device, i.e., digital eye strain.
  • Sensitivity to light, which is sometimes accompanied by headache or nausea.
  • Wandering eyes.

Tips to help protect children’s vision

Schedule regular eye exams.

Most children get an annual check-up before school starts in the fall, and this is a great time also to get their eyes examined.

Limit Screen Time.

In this day and age, the amount of time children spend on computers, tablets, smartphones, and watching TV, has stirred up concern among eyecare professionals.

Prolonged screen time can be harmful to a child’s eyes, causing blurry vision, focusing problems, and may even increase their risk for developing myopia, also known as near or shortsightedness.

Limiting screen time each day, and ensuring that your child takes frequent breaks while using any digital device, will help protect a child’s vision.

Spend More Time Outside.

Spending at least an hour outside every day is vital to your child’s health and can even lower their risk of ocular conditions. Playing outdoors, or even just taking a walk, will help the muscles in their eyes relax.

When these near vision activities are performed for an extended period of time, the muscles in our eyes can become fatigued— just like any other muscle in the body would. To help the eye muscles relax, eye doctors recommend going outdoors and look at things in the distance.

Wear Sunglasses While Outside.

Just like for adults, wearing sunglasses will protect a child’s eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Excessive exposure to UV radiation over time has been linked to serious ocular diseases later in life.

When purchasing a new pair of shades for a child, be sure to find lenses that contain 100% UV protection.

Encourage Healthy Eating.

Healthy vision development is also influenced by the foods our children eat. In this fast-paced world, many parents don’t have time to cook dinners every night. Unfortunately, many foods don’t contain the vitamins and nutrients that our children need to keep their bodies, including their eyes, healthy.

Parents need to know that it is their responsibility to care for a child’s vision. This includes making sure our kids see an eye doctor regularly and understanding the importance of early diagnosis. If there are any problems with your child’s sight they should be able to catch it early.