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3 Tips For Better Childhood Eye Health

Forget your parents’ myths about caring for your peepers, and save your children from the same tired rhetoric. Sitting too close to the TV won’t damage your vision, and eating carrots won’t improve your eyesight—so says The Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Some eye problems are genetic. Others are mostly preventable. All of them require your awareness. If you want your child to have optimal eye health, you don’t have to resort to folklore.

Here are three effective things you can do:

  1. Embrace preventive care
  2. Early childhood eye exams are part of routine checkups. Doctors begin examining a child’s eyes during the first well-baby visit and progress to a more thorough screening by age 3 or 4.

    Take stock of your family’s eye health and discuss any history of eye problems with your child’s health care provider, so he or she can be on the lookout for early signs.

    In a study of more than 10,000 preschoolers, the American Academy of Ophthalmology found that:

    • Nearly one third had refractive errors, which cause blurry vision. About 4 percent were nearsighted, 21 percent were farsighted, and 10 percent had astigmatism.
    • 5 percent had “lazy eye,” clinically known as amblyopia
    • 2 percent had “wandering eye,” clinically known as strabismus

    According to the AAO, amblyopia and strabismus may occur together or separately and can result in permanent, lifelong vision loss if not treated early in life. Healthy eyes and vision are important to childhood development. For that reason, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children have their vision checked at least once by age 6, even if they don’t show signs of eye problems.

    Additionally, HHS suggests scheduling an eye exam if your child’s eyes:

    • Are crossed all the time
    • Turn out
    • Don’t focus together
    • Are red, crusted or swollen around the eyelids adds that constant rubbing, light sensitivity, chronic redness and tearing, and poor visual tracking and focus are other signs of eye problems. Problems in school-age children may appear in the form of difficulty seeing objects at a distance or reading the blackboard, squinting, trouble reading, and sitting too close to the computer or TV.

    Remember: Correcting vision early is important to overall development.

  3. Help develop vision
  4. Children will begin to learn focus, tracking, light and images from birth, according to the AAO. As they reach preschool years, children hone those skills and add depth perception and convergence to the mix. As a parent, there are things you can do to help promote good vision for your child.

    HHS recommends the following for vision development:

    • Read to your child and allow him or her to see what you are reading
    • Play with your child using a chalkboard, finger paints, or different shaped blocks
    • Take your child to the playground to climb the jungle gym and walk on the balance beam
    • Play catch with your child

    Developing vision is important to overall development. If you notice your child is missing a vision milestone, discuss it with his or her doctor. Visit the American Optometric Association for a useful timeline including steps in infant vision development and ways parents can assist.

  5. Practice safety
  6. In addition to looking for vision problems, it is important to protect your child’s eyes from external harm. More than 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented through use of suitable protective eyewear, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

    They may seem like common sense, but here are some tips for keeping your child’s eyes safe:

    • Don’t allow your child to play with sharp objects such as scissors and knives or toys with sharp edges—be age-appropriate
    • Keep your child away from toys such as darts and BB guns
    • Provide eye protection for sports, including but not limited to racquet ball, soccer, hockey and football
    • Make sure your child wears sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays
    • Set up safety gates and cushion sharp corners to protect small children

    Just like oral health, eye health is part of wellness. Our eyes are the lens through which we see the world, and being able to see is important to young, developing minds.

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