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  • Don't Wait Until Your Child is A Year-Old Before Taking Her to An Eye Doctor

    Waiting too long may cause vision-related problems to become more difficult to manage
    by Kate Borbon .
Don't Wait Until Your Child is A Year-Old Before Taking Her to An Eye Doctor
PHOTO BY Pixabay
  • We may not always think about it, but children are very vulnerable to all kinds of illnesses, even those related to vision. It's crucial for parents to take their kids to regular, comprehensive health check-ups, including eye examinations, as early as possible. Unfortunately, some parents seem to hold this off until later, when vision issues have already progressed and have probably become much more difficult to deal with.

    When to take your child to an eye doctor

    The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends children to receive eye examinations within their first few months of life. Here is the AOA’s suggested schedule:

    • An initial exam between ages 6 to 12 months
    • At least one exam between ages 3 and 5 years
    • Annual exams between ages 6 and 18

    Some schools offer annual vision examinations to their students, but experts say parents shouldn’t wait until their children start going to school before taking them to an eye doctor.

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    Regular eye exams are important for kids 

    Rather than relying on annual vision screening tests provided by schools, it is still better for kids to be taken to an actual optometrist, in order to get more in-depth results. Samuel Pierce, president of the AOA, explains why, even if the results of those tests indicate that a child’s vision is normal.

    “The information obtained from a vision screening is comparable to the information obtained from a blood pressure measurement,” Pierce tells Offspring. “Your blood pressure may be in normal range, but that doesn’t mean that you do not have other health problems.”

    Pierce continues by saying that a vision screening is “merely a single measure of one aspect of your overall health. Just like you need a complete physical to evaluate your total health, only a comprehensive eye and vision examination can evaluate your overall eye health and vision status.”

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    Another reason why regular eye examinations are crucial is because it allows parents to become aware of any vision-related issues their children might be developing, and, should there be any, how to deal with them accordingly. As with any illness, experts emphasize that when it comes to vision problems, early detection and intervention is key.

    “Children’s eyes go through rapid changes during the first six years of life—a time when routine comprehensive eye exams are critical to ensuring good vision health,” says Pierce. He later elaborates, “The earlier a vision problem is diagnosed and treated, the less it will impact an individual’s quality of life.”

    Know how to protect your child's eyes and vision

    Aside from making sure your child receives regular eye examinations, there are also little daily things you can do to help reduce the risk of your child developing any problems with her vision, including providing her with ample protection, making sure she doesn’t spend too much time with her eyes stuck on a gadget, and watching out for any early signs of vision issues.

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    Monitor her screen time

    In the age of the Internet and electronic gadgets, a lot of children find it extremely fun to watch YouTube videos and play all sorts of games — which also means that it can be just as hard for parents to tear their kids away from their gadgets. But experts emphasize how important it is for parents to ensure that their kids also take some time away from screens.

    In an article for Motherly, Dr. Millicent Knight, an optometrist, writes that “screen time can also lead to digital eye strain, resulting in tired eyes, headaches, itchy eyes, blurred vision and increased sensitivity to light.”

    She also suggests a method to help balance screen time with outdoor time: the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes your child spends on an electronic device, have her take a break for 20 seconds and look at something that is at least 20 feet away from her. You may also encourage her to play outside, which will not only be fun for her, but also healthy.

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    Keep her eyes protected

    Before your child goes outside to play, make sure her eyes are well-protected, especially if the sun is high up in the sky, since exposure to UV rays has been linked to illnesses like cataracts, macular degeneration, and even cancer. Provide her with sunglasses that protect the eyes from UV rays, and make sure she doesn’t go out during the hottest time of the day.

    Check for symptoms of vision problems

    You don’t need to be an eye doctor to be able to check if your child is showing any symptoms related to vision-related issues that are common among young children, such as farsightedness, near-sightedness, astigmatism, and lazy eye. These symptoms include squinting, difficulty in reading, eye-rubbing, or headaches. If your child complains of any of these, take her to a doctor immediately.

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