National Eye Exam Month for Kids
Did you know August is National Eye Exam Month? It’s a great reminder to schedule your kids' routine eye exams. Here’s how their vision needs might change at each stage of development:
Newborn babies' eyes are checked for infections, cataracts and glaucoma before leaving the hospital. At regular well-child visits, pediatricians or family doctors check that a baby’s eyes are starting to track well and align properly.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that parents take their child for a baseline infant eye exam between six and twelve months. Babies can get free examinations through the InfantSEE® program, a public health program from the AOA, Johnson & Johnson's The Vision Care Institute, and other sponsors (visit the InfantSEE® website to find a location near you). As many key eye development milestones happen by six months, it’s a smart time to check vision, eye function and ocular health.
3-5 Years Thorough eye exams are especially important during the preschool years. This is when doctors often spot—and treat—abnormalities that could interfere with future development, like lazy eye (amblyopia).
Vision should be checked annually during the grade school years. Fortunately, most problems that surface during this time can be remedied by wearing eyeglasses:
- Nearsightedness (myopia): If your child squints to see the blackboard or doesn't participate unless he's seated in the front row, he might be nearsighted (or unable to see things at a distance). This is the most common vision problem in children.
- Farsightedness (hyperopia): If your child is farsighted (or unable to clearly see things close to him), he may hold books farther from his face in order to focus.
- Astigmatism: If your child has blurred and distorted vision, a subtle difference in eye shape may be the cause.
You should also tell your child's doctor about any other eye problems. Itchy eyes from allergies and dry eyes from sports and activities can sometimes be remedied with non-prescription drops, but the doctor should check out all of your concerns. (See "Did You Know?" for more information.)
It's recommended that older kids also get annual exams to detect correctable problems. Many teens with glasses eventually show interest in wearing contact lenses. Because there’s a risk of infection and injury if contacts are used incorrectly, only the most mature and responsible teens should use them. If your child is a good candidate, he'll enjoy these helpful videos on what to expect at a fitting and how to insert and remove lenses. (And you can see what other parents of teens with contacts have to say.)
Late night college study sessions and long stretches at the computer can result in eye fatigue. Over-the-counter drops for "tired eyes" can be soothing and make a great addition to any care package as well as wipes that remove eye makeup without irritation.
HOW TO TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT WEARING GLASSES
If your child's eye exam reveals a correctable vision issue, he may need glasses. Here are some ideas to help you handle his concerns.
"But I don't want to wear glasses..."
I know you want to see clearly. School and sports might just get easier when you can see everything that's going on. Your eyes may feel better too since they won't be straining.
"Won't they break?"
Actually, kids' glasses aren't made of glass. They're made of a light plastic that won't shatter. You can even wear special goggles when you play sports so your glasses won’t slip off.
"Can't I get surgery or wear contacts instead?"
Laser surgery is only recommended for adults whose eyes have stopped growing. Contact lenses require special care and lots of responsibility. High school is probably the best time to try them out. (See "13-18 Years" for more info.)
"But glasses won't look good..."
Actually, lots of famous people look great in glasses! Search the Internet (try "celebrities who wear glasses" or "athletes who wear glasses") to get some ideas for styles of frames you’d like to try at your fitting.