June is Child Vision Awareness Month, and while many parents are very much on top of their children’s cognitive development and motor skills, vision isn’t a topic we focus on frequently. But the way your child sees the world, and the health of her eyes and the quality of her vision, are contributors to her overall wellbeing. Consider these ten helpful pieces of information, and improve your awareness of your child’s vision and eye health this June!
-Do you have a small infant? Help him develop his focus by placing the toys he loves most within his field of vision, about 8-12 inches away. You can also choose toys for him that are easy for him to hold by himself, in order to view up close.
-When your baby becomes a toddler, you can stimulate his visual acuity by providing puzzles, pegboards, and artistic tools such as finger paint, modeling clay, and washable crayons and markers.
Boost your child’s eye health with excellent nutrition. Lutein, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E are all anti-oxidants which prevent cataracts and macular denegeration later in life. You can find these in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, and nuts and nut butters. Omega-3 DHA is a fatty acid that contributes to healthy retinas, and can be found in fish such as salmon and mackerel, and also in walnuts. And Zinc is an excellent “helper” that allows Vitamin A to do its job of protecting the retina.
-Your pediatrician will routinely check your child’s vision, but a visit to an optometrist before age 1, and again by age 4, is recommended to rule out any visual impairments. You can even locate an optometrist in your area who specializes in infant care.
-Do you, or any of your older children, have eye difficulties? Have your child checked for any specific problems that may run in the family!
-Two common vision problems that appear in early childhood are a wandering eye, which is caused by the brain’s difficulty controlling one eye’s movement in comparison with the other, and uneven focus, where a child may be far-sighted in one eye, but not the other. Question your optometrist about these issues when you visit, as they can develop complications which are preventable with early intervention.
-Learn to notice common signs of vision problems, such as frequent eye rubbing and tearing. Also be on the watch for swelling, redness, or pus in the eye area, as well as eyes that bulge, eyelids that droop, or white spots in the eye. -Call your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.
-Those of us with eyeglasses know that nearsightedness can cause problems in the classroom, on the sports field, and when playing outdoor games or riding a bike. Nearsightedness, or myopia, means that a patient cannot see objects at a distance clearly. Frequent eye exams will catch the problem early, allowing your child’s vision to be corrected with glasses, or, as they get older, contact lenses.
-In presbyopia, or farsightedness, patients with presbyopia have difficulty seeing objects in close range. It can begin in early childhood, and corrective lenses or glasses are the standard treatment.
-Learn to treat emergencies! Remember that each eye emergency, from chemical exposure to sharp objects, demands a very different type of treatment and warrants differing levels of medical attention. Refer to the National Institute of Health for a comprehensive guide to eye emergencies.
-Whether you’re taking preventative measures, encouraging healthy development, or responding to an emergency, these tips for your child’s eye health will foster healthy vision and long-term wellbeing. Child Vision Awareness Month is a great time to share this list with your partner, your friends, and your fellow daycare and school parents, in the name of promoting a lifetime of good vision care for your child.