Getting Ready For Back-to-School: The Basics of Children’s Eye Care and Safety

August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month and with the first day of school almost here, it’s a great time for your child to get that eye exam you’ve been meaning to schedule. In fact, there’s no better time to start learning about children’s eye health and safety than the start of a new academic year.

Lesson one: approximately 1 out of every 20 preschoolers has a vision problem, but only about 15 percent of preschool children are actually getting their recommended routine eye exams. If you want to be sure that your children’s eyes are healthy, the best thing you can do is make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam.

Eye problems can prevent your child from preforming their best in the classroom and in sports. The trickiest part is that children often don’t know they are having difficulty seeing. Some indicators of an eye problem include:

  • Headaches that occur later in the day
  • Tripping on curbs, steps, and other low-to- the-ground obstacles
  • Noticeable eye rubbing or tearing when trying to concentrate
  • Squinting at far away objects
  • Tilting or turning head to look at objects
  • Holding books very close to the face, or sitting very close to the television
  • Wandering eyes/difficulty following moving objects

Any of these behaviors are possible indicators that your child may have an eye problem. If you notice your child is doing any of the above, your best option is to make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) all agree that children should receive biannual eye exams in addition to the exams offered at schools. These associations also recommend children already prescribed glasses get their eyes checked every year.

Children should also get visual acuity tests as well as comprehensive eye exams. The first visual acuity test should happen around age three; normally this is when nearsighted or farsighted children get their first pair of glasses. Generally, a follow up exam should take place at five years of age.

And don’t forget – Illinois law requires comprehensive eye exams for all children entering kindergarten or those enrolling in public, private or parochial school for the first time. The law states that, “an eye examination shall at minimum include history, visual acuity, subjective refraction to best visual acuity near and far, internal and external examinations, and a glaucoma evaluation, as well as any other tests or observations that in the professional judgment of the doctor are necessary.” The law says an eye exam must take place within one year prior to kindergartners beginning school in the fall and for all students attending school for the first time in Illinois.

Of course, it’s always important to look after your child’s eye health even if they don’t have a vision problem. Proper vision protection is extremely important for children that play sports. Did you know that 90 percent of the eye injuries in children could be prevented if proper eye protection is worn? You can set the example for your child by wearing protective eyewear when you play sports.

Eye injuries can be quite scary for parents and children alike. If your child experiences an eye injury, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Don’t touch, rub or apply pressure to the injured eye.

Have your children had their eyes checked lately? Schedule a comprehensive eye exam for your child at Illinois Eye Center: Click here for more information or Call (309) 243-2400.