Eye Care for Kids
Children use their eyes to explore the world around them. Their vision is vital to their learning and development. If they can’t see, they struggle to pay attention, which can lead to academic problems. In fact, the American Osteopathic Association links 60% of learning disabilities with vision problems.
Eye problems may also affect children’s ability to play sports. Their eyes effect depth perception and hand-eye coordination. If left untreated in severe vision cases, they may develop retinal diseases, cancerous tumors, or congenital glaucoma.
To avoid problems, try these eye care tips for kids.
Pay Attention to Screen Exposure
Nearly 60 million children spend hours every day using digital devices for entertainment and schoolwork. Even this doesn’t count all those hours spent in front of gaming systems or the TV. Although electronics may not cause obvious damages, they do risk later eye complications. Here are some things you can do to reduce your child’s chances of developing Computer Vision Syndrome.
Limit Time: As the parent, limit your child’s exposure to electronics. Use this chart for suggestions:
- Under 10 years old 30 minutes a day
- 10-13 years old 1 hour
- 14-15 years old 2 hours
Once children reach age 16, the amount of time is up to your best judgment.
Take breaks: Another way to protect your child’s eyes is to require breaks every ten minutes. This allows their eyes to relax and reduces eye strain.
Position the computer: When people look at computers, they rarely blink their eyes, which can lead to eye complications. Keep the computer below eye level to help relax eyes and increase blinking. Stay at least 20 inches away from the computer and keep feet flat on the floor.
Wear prescription: If your child has an eye prescription, make sure your child wears his or her prescription contacts or glasses while using the computer. This will prevent squinting and relieve eyestrain.
Use Protective Eye Care Outdoors
Playing outside is great for your kids’ physical health, but long amounts of sun exposure may damage their eyes. Have them wear sunglasses or get UV-blocking lenses if they already wear glasses. Consider getting polycarbonate lenses that will provide 100% UV protection.
Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Physical health makes a huge difference in your child’s eye health. Make sure your child eats healthy foods and exercises regularly. Your child should get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise every day. Regular exercise can reduce eye pressure by up to 20%. Your child should also get at least eight hours of sleep every night.
Feed your child a diet rich in omega-3s and carotene vitamins to boost eye health. Make sure to include a lot of red and green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, beetroot, and carrots. Also, include yellow fruits with carotene; mangoes and papayas are good examples.
Watch for Eye Problems
Although you may not always notice eye problems, if you stay alert you can protect your child before bigger problems emerge. Even something as small as chronic eye irritation can cause problems later in life. Use common sense, but if you notice something that concerns you over time, don’t ignore it.
Here are the warning signs to watch for:
- Droopy eyelids
- Eye rubbing
- Light sensitivity
- Pus or crust in the corner of the eye
- Swelling on the skin around the eye
- Tearing or redness
- Colored substances in the pupil
If you see any of these symptoms in your child’s eyes, go to the doctor immediately. It’s always better to take care of eye complications early on.
Get Regular Eye Exams
Get in the habit of regular eye exams early on in your child’s life. These exams can identify eye problems and prevent potential eye complications.
As a rule of thumb, the AOA suggests a checkup at least every two years for children without an indicated eye problem. Otherwise, you should take your children for an eye exam at the following ages:
- Age 1: Take your baby in for an eye exam in the first 12 months.
- Age 2-3: When you take your child to preschool for the first time, take them to the eye doctor as well. Preschoolers generally respond well and understand the doctor during the exam. This exam will ensure that they see well enough to start attending class.
- Age 5: Once your child reaches kindergarten, go in for another eye exam. Children’s eyes often change in the first few years of life. Keeping up on exams helps your child keep the pace at school and at home.
If your child has corrective lenses, you may need to visit the eye doctor every year. You can also go in more often if recommended by your eye doctor.
Keep your child’s vision clear and healthy by using these helpful eye care tips during their formative years. A lifetime of wonderful vision lies ahead!