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Simple ways to take care of your child’s vision

The good news is that many problems and eye diseases in children can be treated, especially when they are found early.

Good eyesight is necessary for academic performance and everyday living. Vision accounts for up to 80% of what youngsters learn. It might be difficult to identify a vision impairment in a young child, and it’s not uncommon for abnormalities to go misdiagnosed. However, careful attention to your child’s eye health can help catch problems early, while their eyes are still developing.

When does my child need an eye test?

A professional eye check should be done before your child’s first birthday, according to Nina Kriel, president of the South African Optometric Association. Thereafter, regular vision screenings should take place in:

  • Preschool (between the ages of three and four)
  • When entering elementary school
  • When experiencing a possible vision problem
  • Before and during growth hormone therapy

Is my child having trouble seeing?

Some of the indicators that your child is having trouble seeing are listed below. Remember that not all eye disorders have symptoms that parents or children may easily recognise, so getting a professional eye check-up is crucial.

Keep an eye out for the following warning signs:

  • He wipes his eyes regularly
  • His eyes don’t line up or move together
  • He complains about pain, burning, or itchy, dry eyes
  • To see more clearly, he squints or covers one eye
  • He has red, watery, or bloodshot eyes
  • His eyes appear to be light-sensitive
  • He holds his book too close or too far from his eyes when reading.
  • He misunderstands written words, syllables, or letters
  • He suffers frequent headaches

How to keep your child’s eyesight safe

By teaching your children basic eye care and safety habits you are instilling in them the importance of taking care of their precious eyesight. As a parent, always encourage and remind your children to follow these nine tips and set a good example by doing them yourself.

  1. Keep harmful household chemicals out of the reach of your children. Store all household cleaning products up, away, and out of sight of young children. Close containers and put them away immediately after use.
  2. Don’t let your kids play with potentially hazardous ‘toys,’ such as bows and arrows, darts, pellet guns, or BB guns.
  3. Keep an eye on your kids when they’re near dogs. Children are twice as likely as adults to experience a dog bite in the eye area.
  4. Ensure your child eats a balanced diet rich in foods known to boost eye health. Fresh fruits and vegetables (especially green leafies such as kale, spinach, and broccoli), as well as omega-3s found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, help your child’s eyes get the proper nutrients they need to function at their best.
  5. Encourage your child to take regular breaks after every 30-40 minutes of reading, writing, or playing on the computer. Time spent on electronic devices such as tablets, mobile phones, or handheld devices should be reduced too.
  6. An active lifestyle has been shown to reduce the risk of children developing a number of eye diseases as they grow older, including diabetes – a disease which can result in blindness.
  7. Getting at least eight hours of sleep each night is also important in preventing your child’s eyes from getting strained.
  8. More than 90 percent of children’s eye injuries can be prevented. For sports like cricket and paintball, make sure your child wears appropriate eye or facial protection.
  9. Be wary of sun damage. The dangers of UV to the skin are well-known, but the dangers to the eyes are less well-known. Macular degeneration is caused by excessive exposure to the sun, and 80 percent of the damage occurs before the age of 20. A large hat provides excellent protection for the eyes and face. Make sure your child’s glasses have UV-blocking lenses.

Good to know: Although studies have shown that blue light from digital devices is not dangerous to the eyes, continuous viewing of these screens up close can cause digital eye strain, a condition which can cause blurred vision or dry, irritated eyes, as well as issues with focusing.

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