The start of a new school year can be filled with great excitement and anxiety for both parents and students. In addition to heading back to school, August is also Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. This yearly observance both serves as a great reminder to get your child’s eyes checked before they return to the classroom, but also to reinforce the importance of maintaining good eye health and safety throughout the year.
Between running to class, staring endlessly at computer screens, studying, or training hard for their school’s athletics program, thinking about eye health and safety may not be a top priority for most kids. By taking the time to teach them a few important safety tips, parents can ensure their children will be able to focus on what really matters: education.
Here are a few of the most important things to remember:
1. Get your child an eye exam before school starts.
The American Optometric Association recommends that children have their first comprehensive eye exam at age one, and again at age three. In addition, children of parents who wear glasses should have an eye exam every year after the age of five. Vision screenings are useful but often miss binocular vision disorders and hidden vision problems.
2. Kids should wash their hands regularly.
The tears and front surface of the eye form a mucous membrane that transmits germs easily. Some eye infections (particularly viral infections similar to the common cold) are extremely contagious. Kids tend to rub their eyes quite a bit, so clean hands will cut-down on eye infections.
3. Ensure children wear protective eyewear when playing sports.
Sporting follies are among the top cause of eye injuries. Even if a child does not need glasses to see, protective eyewear (sports goggles) is a must to guard against dust and dirt in the eyes, eyelid and corneal lacerations, and fractures of the bones that make up the eye socket or orbit.
4. Encourage kids to give their eyes a rest.
Excessive screen time can lead to eye-strain, blurred vision and even nearsightedness. Hand-held electronic (phones, tablets) and computer-use should be limited to 20 minutes at a time and no more than two hours a day – especially if someone in the family already wears glasses.
If at any time you suspect your child may be having vision issues, please consult a Pediatric Optometrist.