It’s that time of year again, leaves are falling, and pumpkin spice lattes are finally available. No matter what age your child is, fall is the perfect time for a routine eye exam. You may be thinking, “my baby is too young to need that yet.” But, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. So, now you may be asking, “Well, when should my baby have their first eye test?” Let’s go over all the facts to help clear that up.
Children’s eyes develop rapidly. They’re constantly changing and adjusting to the world around them. As they change, it’s not uncommon for issues to arise. By taking them for annual eye exams, you can stay on top of their eye health. The same goes for babies and toddlers; they need regular eye exams. But, when do you take them for their very first exam?
Pediatric ophthalmologists agree that children should have their first exam before they turn one. Then, they should have them annually until kindergarten. Even if no issues are detected, these annual exams are important. In the time between each exam, lots can change. Early detection of vision problems allows the issue to be corrected by the time they enter school, ideally. Some of the conditions that youngsters can have are lazy eye syndrome and crossed eyes. If a parent had similar problems as a child or now as an adult, their child’s risk is higher.
Once your child enters school, they need an exam every two years if they’ve had no vision problems. If they have had vision problems, maintain an annual exam routine. It’s important for parents not to rely on teachers or the school to tell them if their child has a vision problem. Even pediatric doctors don’t have the training to provide adequate exams. You need to take them to a licensed ophthalmologist who is trained in children’s eye development.
What If My Child Has Vision Problems?
Your ophthalmologist may detect an issue in your child’s eyes. Sometimes, it could be a refractive error that affects their ability to see. If they struggle to see things in the distance, it’s called myopia. The eye doctor may recommend wearing corrective lenses, glasses, or doing at-home eye exercises. As mentioned above, children’s eyes change fast. This can make their prescription change often which means they need new eye wear often. Without adequate coverage, this can get expensive. Prevention and early detection are the keys to strong childhood vision.
Don’t Rely on School for Children’s First Eye Test
Most schools will have a nurse in-house who might perform vision screenings on the students. Keep in mind that a vision screening performed by your pediatrician or the school nurse is not a complete eye exam. These screenings are designed to alert parents to the possibility of a visual problem. But, they should not take the place of a visit to an eye care professional. That’s why you shouldn’t rely on schools to give your child their first eye test.
Here are some signs you can watch for at home that may point to vision problems. Does your child…
- Routinely sit too close to the television?
- Often rub their eyes while reading or watching television?
- Complain of headaches after reading?
- Complain about not being able to see the words in a book clearly?
- Hold books and papers at an arms-reach to read them?
If you answered yes to any of these, it could mean that your child is having trouble with their vision. Take them in for an eye exam. When children are very young, they can’t explain to you what problems they are having. If the vision problem is something they were born with, then they don’t realize that it’s a problem. They have never seen clearly so they don’t realize that anything is wrong. That’s why noticing abnormal behavior when they read or look at objects in the distance is so important. You must detect a problem in their vision for them. Get them into their first eye test early!
Some Steps You Can Take to Avoid Eye Problems in the Future
Restrict the amount of time that your children spend looking at electronic screens. These include, but are not limited to, video games, television, computers, kindles, and cell phones. Electronic screens can be the cause of eye strain in young eyes. It’s becoming more common for schools to provide tablets and computers to children for schoolwork. Sure, technology is great for learning, but it can also damage young eyes. If they use devices at school, definitely limit their use at home.
Get your children outside as much as possible. We understand that in large cities this can be difficult. But, try to find after-school programs or parks in the area where it’s safe for them to play. School sports are also an option to consider. The YMCA often offers programs that are available to children. Getting outside is crucial to developing eyes because it builds their distance-vision. Inside, most objects are within 12 feet, so the eyes don’t practice adjusting to far distances. You can prevent them from having myopia in the future by encouraging them to get outside today.
Make sure that your children are wearing sunglasses that protect them from UVA/UVB rays while outside. Because of the pollution in our atmosphere, more harmful rays are reaching the surface of the planet. These rays can cause damage to the eyes if left unprotected.
What About Eye Vitamins?
One question we get here a lot is when can our kids start taking eye vitamins so they can avoid glasses?
The Rebuild Your Vision Ocu-Plus Formula can help to improve common vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism in children. Although this formula is convenient, safe, and effective, you can also get similar nutrients through food. Try to prepare well-balanced meals for your children with plenty of leafy greens. You may have to find some creative ways of hiding the greens in the recipe if they aren’t fans of them, though.
Remember that getting eye exams from an early age can help prevent problems in young eyes. Early detection allows for early treatment. Take your baby to a pediatric ophthalmologist by the age of one and then every year until kindergarten. If there are no vision problems up until this point, take your school-aged child for an eye exam every two years.