Christopher Stenberg, M.D., pediatrician at Crozer-Chester Medical Center
It may seem as though the kids just got out of school, but back-to-school season is already right around the corner. As you get your child ready for a new year of classes, it’s important to add one more item to your to-do list: taking him or her to the eye doctor.
August is National Children’s Eye Health and Safety month and it’s the perfect time to tend to their little peepers.
The important thing for parents to understand is that children and adolescents have different eye issues than adults. Eye issues that should be recognized at birth or early in childhood such as congenital cataracts and amblyopia (lazy eye) can be treated very successfully and result in normal vision. However if they are not recognized and go untreated, those conditions can lead to irreversible vision problems and even blindness.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, almost 80 percent of preschoolers do not receive vision screenings. A startling statistic, especially when you consider that almost a quarter of all school-aged children across the country have vision problems.
Although many organizations perform vision screenings at schools and daycare centers, to determine a child’s risk for vision problems, a thorough eye exam is necessary to determine the overall health of her eyes. Common vision issues among children include a lazy eye, crossed eyes, drooping of the eyelid, color blindness, nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
In addition to regularly taking your child to visit an ophthalmologist, you should note if your child displays any symptoms of vision problems, such as wandering or crossed eyes, disinterest in reading or viewing distant objects, squinting or turning the head when watching television or a family history of childhood vision problems.
Preventing Eye Injuries
Eye injuries are the number one cause of vision loss in children. The most common injuries include sports-related injuries, falls, misuse of common objects and toys and contact with harmful household products.
Children are among the most likely to injure their eyes playing sports and games or have injuries from things such as fireworks. Children’s eyes are also more sensitive to sun ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure than adults. Teens are among the most likely to damage their eyes by not following guidelines on using contacts or by wearing illegally sold costume colored contacts.
Fortunately, however, 90 percent of these injuries can be prevented.
Here are some tips for preventing various eye injuries:
To prevent sports eye injuries, kids should wear appropriate safety goggles or eyewear that is ASTM F803 approved (check the label) when playing racquet sports or basketball. They should also wear helmets and face shields for baseball, football and hockey sports.
Common Objects and Toys
Read all warnings and instructions on toys and keep toys with sharp or rigid points, spikes, rods or dangerous edges away from children. Avoid flying toys or toys that project items. Other household items, such as knives, utensils and office supplies, should be kept in drawers or cabinets that are out of reach.
To prevent falls, be sure to use safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs when necessary and provide lights and handrails to improve safety. Additionally, place pads or covers on sharp corners and edges on furniture.
Keep all paints, pesticides, fertilizers and cleaning products in a secured area. Additionally, do not mix cleaning agents.