Don’t look now but August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. What if a child never had his eye sight checked, how would he know if he had any sight problems? A child that has problems seeing, or being light sensitive, or experiencing a blurriness of vision would tend believe this type of ‘seeing’ to be normal and not tell anybody about his vision problem.
Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month raises awareness about children and their vision. One out of every four school age children has some type of vision problem. It is important to know if your child has a vision problem and to protect their eyes from harm.
With the new school year swiftly coming, can little Suzy or Johnny see the blackboard or read their school books? Is Suzy squinting her eyes at the blackboard from her first row seat? Is Johnny covering up one eye so the words on the book page don’t become ‘double’? Does either one seem easily surprised or jumpy when someone walks softly up to them?
Vision problems can include sitting really close to the television, short attention span, excessive blinking or squinting, and poor coordination when throwing or catching. Many pediatricians will perform a simple eye exam around 3 years of age.
According to Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America, “Vision problems affect one in four school-aged children. We want all children to make sure their child’s eye problems do not go unnoticed this school year. A child should not have to struggle in school because of an undetected vision problem.”
Having yearly eye check-ups with your doctor or an optometrist is always a good idea, or talking with the school system or local government to find out about free children eye exams.
Though most eye problems in children can be corrected if detected and treated early, it is possible for a child to have a serious vision problem and be unaware of it. To prevent eye injuries in children, it is important for parents and caregivers to understand the most common dangers such as the misuse of toys, accidental falls, mishandling of sharp objects such as pens and forks, contact with harmful household products, and sports injuries.
“Certain eye problems, if left untreated, even for a short time, can lead to permanent vision loss, so it is important to maintain appropriate eye care and attend regular check-ups,” said Anthony Caputo, MD, Medical Director, The Children’s Eye Care Center of New Jersey at CMMC.
According to Prevent Blindness America, immediate medical help should be obtained if a child shows any of these signs or symptoms:
- Obvious pain or trouble seeing
- Cuts or tears in the eyelid
- One eye does not move as well as the other, or one sticks out more than the other
- Unusual pupil shape or size
- Blood in the clear part of the eye
- Something in the eye or under the eyelid that cannot be easily removed
To help avoid potential everyday eye injuries, parents and caregivers of small children should use safety gates on stairs to prevent falls, pad sharp corners on furniture, place locks on drawers and cabinets that contain harmful substances, and keep sharp objects out of reach. Protective goggles and helmets should be worn when playing sports.
In addition, children are at an even higher risk of the sun’s UV rays’ harmful effects, as their eyes do not yet have the same ability as adults do to better protect against UV radiation. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses large enough to shield children’s eyes from most angles are recommended.