Eye care for children is extremely important as 80 percent of all learning is performed through visual.
In fact, parents should begin taking care of their children’s eye health at the infant stage and continue throughout childhood.
This period of childhood is critical as the child’s visual development reaches maturity between the ages of 9 and 11.
Once the visual capability reaches its maturity, some vision disorders are difficult and even impossible to rectify.
Early diagnosis can mean the difference between normal vision and a permanently lazy eye.
But how can you know if your child had a problem with his or her sight?
Obviously, infants can’t communicate their complaints and symptoms to you.
Even if they grow up and become skillful enough to talk, they may accept a symptom as “normal” because they are unaware of what is considered as abnormal.
And very often, kids with vision problems are misunderstood as having learning difficulty or a learning disability like dyslexia.
Usually ones who spent the most time with the kids notices the visual problems.
If your kid is schooling, teachers are oftentimes the first to notice students' vision changes.
But don’t depend entirely on them as they have many kids to attend and it isn’t their utmost priority to observe vision issues.
Therefore, you have to be very attentive about the signals that your child may be having problems with his vision while he does his day to day activities.
If your child exhibits any of the signs below, it may mean that they are having some sort of visual impairment.
If your kid is showing any of the above symptoms, it is time to bring them for an eye checkup.
However, just because your child doesn't show any of the signs above, doesn't mean that his visual function is perfect.
Eye care for children has no room for risks.
Many ocular dysfunctions have no obvious symptoms and cannot be diagnosed without proper instrumentation.
The American Optometric Association recommends that all infants should have their first eye examination by 6 months of age, and at least 2 more ocular health examination at age 3 and 5 respectively.
US News & World Report reported that even though about 25% of children aged 6 to 11 have a vision impairment strong enough for them to wear prescription glasses.
But only less than 35 % of kids under the age of 6 ever had their eyes examined by an eye doctor.
So don't wait until something goes wrong to see the eye doctor.
And don't rely on the school nurse or your pediatrician to monitor your child's vision, as some pediatricians don't perform vision screenings.
School screenings are designed to alert possibility of vision issue. Not to replace a visit to an expert eye care practitioner.
Nowadays, children do not go out and play anymore.
Regardless of rain or shine, most kids will just stay at home to play computer or video games.
The invention of iPad, iPhone and handheld console is bringing this undesired phenomenon to new height.
Parents are having difficulty limiting the amount of time their children spent on such close-up activities.
But it is understandable as children today are overly stressed with school work (more than 8 hours of school daily in Singapore).
Video or computer games becomes the only thing which they knew to release stress for entertainment.
Even though, it will be better if we show them how to release their stress through channels like playing sports and exercises, we still can let them play video games too.
But long hours on computer and video games build up lots of near-point stress on the eyes which is bad for eyesight.
So have your child follow the a 20-20-20 eye break rule. For every 20 minutes of close up work, your child should take his or her eyes off the screen and look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
This helps to prevent eye fatigue.
This step is a must if you are serious in eye care for children.
Good vision habits are crucial for maintaining good eye health and it is easier to build habits when one is of younger age.
The first vision habit which you will want to build for your child is to go outdoor more often.
Staying away from TV, computer and video games is a wonderful habit to build not just for the eyes but the entire physiological well being of the body.
Children and adults who spent most of their time in front of the TV or computer games are more prone to obesity which can lead to diabetes and high blood pressure.
Both which can cause permanent blindness.
It is also bad for the social skill if the child just hole up in the house everyday.
Going outdoor help to release stress which is built up in the body and relaxes all the muscles (including eye muscles).
It is also beneficial for distance vision and preventing nearsightedness.
TV and computer games aren't good for the mental health either.
In our modern world, there are too much violence and sex available on both TV and the Internet.
I almost fainted when I was introduced to Happy Tree Friends by my cousin who was only 10 years old.
The quality of children TV programs these days are totally pathetic. Long gone was the magic of Sesame Street.
In the beginning, they will definitely protest against the new rule.
Start with small steps by setting reasonable limits on indoor activities.
Lead by example by getting your own pretty ass off the couch and bring them out for a day of fun in nature.
Here are some suggestions for outdoor activities - hiking, cycling, camping, swimming, building sandcastles, kayaking, picnics, playing football, star gazing and etc.
I am sure you can be more creative than I do.
And please don’t stare at your mobile device during the outing...
If you are successful in getting them out, another important healthy vision habit is to get them to get used to wearing sunglasses.
Protecting the eyes from the UV rays helps to reduce their risks of getting cataracts.
Kids need more sun protection than adults do since they spend more time playing outdoors (hopefully) in direct sunlight.
When they are playing outside, remember to get them to wear protective eyewear for sports activities.
Prevent Blindness America estimates that about 50,000 sports-related eye injuries each year in the US and 90% of these injuries could easily be prevented by wearing protective eyewear.
If you find your child’s vision is deteriorating, eye exercises might be able to help you.
Eye exercises are designed to improve one’s vision as well as his or her hand-eye coordination.
While many professional athletes perform eye exercises to help their vision on the court or field, children perform eye exercises to see the board better at school or to improve their overall coordination.
Using visual games and focusing activities, you can help your child not only control the movement of her eyes, but also improve her visual acuity.
Also try to help your child in reducing their dependency on corrective lens.
When you use glasses which are meant for nearsightedness to do close up work, such as reading; you are actually increasing the amount of accommodative stress on your eyes.
This is the same for glasses which are meant for farsightedness.
Therefore, if your child has to use glasses, teach them to use it properly.
Finally the last step in eye care for children.
Personally, I am a strong advocate in adopting good dietary habit.
It has been proven over and over that good nutrition leads to a healthier body.
Giving your child the necessary nutrients to fight eye diseases sets them on the right visual path.
In fact, teaching them to eat well will benefit them for the rest of their life. Even the life of their children in the future.
Add in lots of fruits and green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kales for antioxidants, vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Nuts and cold water fishes such as salmon and tuna for essential fatty acids. Incorporate eye food into their dietary meals for good vision.
To upsize your defense, you might want to consider supplementing with eye vitamins.
And don’t forget to have at least eight hours of sleep each night to rest the eyes.
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