August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month

By editor
August 8, 2018

Vision plays an important role in your child's physical, mental, and social development. Uncorrected vision problems can impair child development, interfere with learning, and even lead to permanent vision loss. Early detection and treatment of eye problems are critical.

Be an advocate for your child's vision and eye health!

  1. Make sure your child’s healthcare provider, educator, or public health program completes regular vision screenings.
  2. Take your child to an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) if they do not pass a vision screening, if they are at increased risk of a vision problem due to developmental delay, medical condition, or a family history of vision problems, or if you have a concern about your child’s vision.
  3. Follow all treatment recommendations the eye doctor prescribes for your child- including eye glasses, wearing an eye patch, medications, and/or surgical recommendations.

What do your child's eyes look like?

  • Eyes don't line up, one eye appears crossed or looks out
  • Eyelids are red-rimmed, crusted or swollen
  • Eyes are watery or red (inflamed)

How does your child act?

  • Rubs eyes a lot
  • Closes or covers one eye
  • Tilts head or thrusts head forward
  • Has trouble reading or doing other close-up work, or holds objects close to eyes to see
  • Blinks more than usual or seems cranky when doing close-up work
  • Things are blurry or hard to see
  • Squints eyes or frowns

What does your child say?

  • "My eyes are itchy," "my eyes are burning" or "my eyes feel scratchy." "I can't see very well."
  • After doing close-up work, your child says "I feel dizzy," "I have a headache" or "I feel sick/nauseous."
  • "Everything looks blurry," or "I see double."

Remember, your child may still have an eye problem even if he or she does not complain or has not shown any unusual signs.

Your Child May Have a Risk Factor for Eye Disease or Eye Problems

Some children are more likely to have eye problems. Your child's doctor should be aware of the following factors that may make your child more likely to develop a vision problem:

  • Your child was born prematurely
  • You have a family history of eye problems (such as childhood cataract, lazy eye (amblyopia), misaligned eyes, eye tumors, or high refractive error.)
  • Your child has had an eye injury (problems resulting from childhood eye injuries may develop much later in life)
  • Children with diabetes should have a dilated eye exam at least once a year.
  • Children with readily recognized eye abnormalities such as a crossed or wandering eye or a droopy eyelid.
  • Children with known neurodevelopmental disorders in any area (e.g., hearing impairment, motor abnormalities such as cerebral palsy, cognitive impairment, autism spectrum disorders, speech delay).  These children have a higher rate of vision problems than those without neurodevelopmental abnormalities.

Vision screenings

Prevent Blindness, other community organizations, public health professionals, and educators perform vision screenings for children at schools, daycare centers, and other settings. While vision screenings and eye examinations are complementary approaches to assessing the eye problems of a child, a screening is used to identify a child at risk for vision problems and does not replace a comprehensive examination performed by an eye doctor.  The next step to take following a referral from a vision screening is to ensure that the child completes an eye exam conducted by an optometrist of ophthalmologist.

Eye exams

A comprehensive eye examination includes an evaluation of the refractive state, dilated fundus examination, visual acuity, ocular alignment, binocularity, and color vision testing, where appropriate.  Eye exams can take one to two hours to complete depending on the procedures conducted.  Be sure to schedule your child’s eye exam for a time that will not conflict with naps or meals.  Bring snacks or quiet toys to the appointment to ensure young children remain comfortable.

Suggested timetables for children’s eye health, based on key children’s health organizations are:

Newborn infants

Newborns should have their eyes checked while still in the hospital nursery. This examination in the nursery should be for general eye health and include a red reflex test. This examination can help detect several congenital eye problems, some of which can be very serious and permanently threaten vision.

During regular well baby exams, from birth to 3 years of age

Pediatricians should use family vision history and a vision assessment to see if vision problems exist. Beginning at well child exams at age 3 and continuing annually through 10 years of age, vision screenings should be performed assessing your child’s visual acuity and ocular alignment.

If a child fails a vision screening or there is any concern of an eye or vision problem

The child should be referred for a comprehensive professional eye examination. This combination of vision screenings with referral for a comprehensive professional eye examination are the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. The American Optometric Association supports a comprehensive professional eye examination performed by an eye doctor at age 6 months, 3 years and 5 years for all children.

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