Eye Health for Children: Back-to-School Pointers for Families

Keeping eyes healthy is important at any age, beginning with young children. Vision screenings and eye exams are critical to early detection of problems like amblyopia, or lazy eye, the most common cause of visual impairment among young children, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI). Also the most common cause of monocular (one eye) visual impairment among young and middle-aged adults, vision loss from amblyopia can be largely prevented, if detected and treated early.

That’s why experts such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends vision screening for all children at least once between ages 3 and 5 years to detect the presence of amblyopia or its risk factors. Screening can be performed by a pediatrician, family physician or other properly trained health care provider. It is also often offered at schools, community health centers or community events. If a vision problem is suspected, the next step should be an eye examination performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

NEI also offers these 10 Healthy Vision Tips that you can share with your children:

  1. Eat right to protect your sight.

Keep your eyes healthy by eating a well-balanced diet. Load up on different types of fruits and veggies, especially leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens. Fish like salmon, tuna, and halibut have been shown to help your eyes, too.

  1. Get moving.

Did you know that kids who exercise often have a healthier body weight than kids who don’t? Being overweight or obese can put you at higher risk for diabetes and other conditions that can lead to vision problems.

  1. Encourage your child to speak up if your vision changes.

Ask: Is your vision blurry? Do you squint a lot? Ever have trouble seeing things at school? Tell a parent or teacher if your eyes are bothering you or if you notice any changes in your vision.

  1. Reinforce the importance of wearing prescribed glasses.

Glasses help people see better, especially when they’re clean and free of smudges. Talk with your child about how to clean glasses and how to store them when not wearing them.

  1. Keep the germs away.

Be sure your child always washes his/her hands before putting them close to the eyes, especially while putting in or taking out contact lenses.

  1. Gear up.

Playing a favorite sport? Using chemicals during science class? Mowing the lawn? Be sure your child wears the right protection to keep your eyes safe. Many eye injuries can be prevented with better safety habits, such as using protective eyewear.

  1. Wear shades.

The sun’s rays can hurt the eyes. Choose sunglasses that block 99% or 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation from the sun. And remember, no one should ever look directly at the sun.

  1. Give the eyes a break.

Do your child spend a lot of time looking at a computer, phone, or TV screen? Staring at any one thing for too long can tire eyes. Give the eyes a rest with the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

  1. Say no to smoking.

Be sure your child knows that smoking is as bad for the eyes as it is the rest of the body? Smoking can put a person at risk for some pretty serious eye issues, which can lead to blindness.

  1. Talk about it.

Does anyone in your family have issues with their eyes? Talking about eye health with your family can help all of you stay healthy.