Your child’s eyesight will go through several changes as they grow. With the help of your pediatrician, you can monitor their visual development from infancy to school age. While these developmental changes occur at a different pace for each child, there are many ways you can take a proactive approach to your child’s visual development.
What You Should Know About Your Child’s Vision
Careful attention to your child’s eye health can help catch problems at their earliest stages while their eyes are still developing. Here are the things you should expect or watch out for during these stages:
By three months, your child’s eyes should be able to focus on and follow a moving object.
By five months, your child is developing depth perception and should be able to see in three dimensions.
By nine months, your child’s eyes have nearly turned their final color.
During one to three years, watch for misalignment in your child’s eyes. This could be a sign of strabismus, an eye problem that occurs in 4% of American children. Measles is a leading cause of blindness in children around the world, so it is also important to get your child vaccinated at this age.
For school-age children, good screen time practice can help lower the risk of digital eye strain and nearsightedness. To combat these conditions, encourage your child to follow the 20-20-20 rule: look up from the screen every 20 minutes of screen time and focus on an object that is 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. Children can get cataracts, too, and undergoing regular vision screenings can help discover and treat them properly.
If you notice anything that is out of order, talk with your pediatrician or eye doctor.
How to Protect Your Child’s Eye Health
Here are some tips on how to keep your child’s eyes healthy and their vision clear:
Boost Visual Engagement
You can help promote visual engagement in your infant or toddler by introducing high-contrast colors in toys and décor. When in new environments, allow your child to focus on things around them and approach items from various angles to get your young one comfortable with a broader field of vision. Interactive games, such as patty cake and peekabo, can also help stimulate the hand-eye coordination of your newborn in the same way a game of catch can encourage interest in a toddler or a school-aged child.
Attend Regular Eye Exams:
An eye exam is the only way to detect vision problems that can impact safety and make performing day-to-day activities difficult. It will also help determine if your child requires glasses or has any issues that need to be addressed. During the session, your eye doctor will look for various conditions such as myopia or nearsightedness, amblyopia or lazy eye, strabismus and ptosis. You should bring your young one in for their first comprehensive eye examination at six months of age. The next one should be when they are three years old. If the results are satisfactory, your child can attend the next exam at age five or six.
In the event that your eye doctor discovers an issue with your child’s eyesight, glasses may be the next step to enhance your child’s vision. Varilux® progressive lenses, for instance, provide sharper vision at every distance while eliminating the low-light issues of standard progressive lenses.
Provide a Balanced Diet
Monitoring what your child eats is a win for their eye health. There is a variety of food that supplies nutrients – such as zinc, lutein and omega-3 fatty acids – that keep eyes in great shape. To help prevent infections and restore tissues, for instance, your kid can munch on citrus fruits that contain vitamins C and E, such as mandarin oranges, strawberries, mangos and avocados. Fish and other foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are recommended for reducing the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Leafy greens containing vitamin A, such as kale and spinach, should also be included in their diet as these vegetables help fight dry eye and night blindness. Note that a balanced diet can also prevent other conditions like obesity and hypertension – which are linked to certain eye diseases – so it is best to start your children young.
Limit Screen Time
There is a good reason to be worried about your child’s screen time. Prolonged exposure to digital screens – roughly over two hours of screen time – can lead to insomnia, reduced concentration and creativity, mood swings, obesity and, in some cases, aggressive behavior in children and teens. The blue light emitted by digital devices can cause digital eye strain, which when left untreated can lead to blurred vision, dry and irritated eyes, and issues with eye focus. In fact, the Department of Health recommends children under two have no screen time at all due to the possible effect it has on language development and eye movement.
Watch Out for Warning Signs
In addition to getting an eye examination for your child, it is smart to keep an eye out for warning signs of vision-related problems to aid their eye health. These include squinting, head tilting, eye rubbing, sensitivity to light, reading difficulty, headaches, poor hand-eye coordination, disinterest in distant objects or holding objects very close to the eyes. Consult your pediatrician or eye doctor right away if you see your child struggling with any of these symptoms.
Wear Appropriate Eyewear
As your child becomes more active, it is crucial that you take a proactive approach to prevent eye-related injuries. Scope out any hazardous equipment where your child may be playing. Moreover, do not forget to equip them with the appropriate eyewear, such as polycarbonate lenses, when needed. These lenses are made with shatterproof plastic and are the go-to choice for highly active children. Proven to be one of the most impact-resistant lenses on the market, polycarbonate lenses are not likely to crack or chip if hit with something. They combine vision correction with a thin, lightweight and comfortable design, and they can shield your child’s eyes from UVA and UVB rays.
Here are first-aid tips for eye-related injuries:
If your child spilled something that has alkaline or acid substances in their eye, gently flush their eye with clean water for at least 20 minutes or until medical help arrives. Show the chemical to the care providers if possible.
If your child is in constant pain, has persistent tearing or complains of blurred or double vision, call an eye doctor. While waiting, make sure you cover your child’s injured eye with a cold compress for 15 minutes to decrease blood flow or relieve inflammation. If you are using an ice pack, swaddle it in dampened cloth to prevent the eye from further damage due to freezing.
If your child is hit in the eye with a blunt object, examine the affected area thoroughly. If your child cannot open their eyelids or if there is any sign of bleeding, seek medical attention right away.
If a sharp object has injured your child’s eye, do not press on the eyelid. Instead, cover the affected eye with some type of shield and find immediate medical attention. If the object happens to be still in your child’s eye, do not touch or remove it. Cover the eye, and call 911 right away.
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