Children learn a lot about the world through what they see and poor vision can stop them from learning properly, which is why protecting children's eye health is so important. Early detection of poor eye health can help children get the support they need, whether that be through glasses, contact lenses or corrective eye surgery.
What age can a child go to an optician?
Children can have eye exams at any age. If you think your child may have issues with their vision then it might be time to take them to the opticians. Eye tests are free through the NHS for children under 16-years old. A child might not always be aware that they have a problem with their vision. Taking them to have their eyes tested every year will ensure you spot any issues before they get worse.
A vision screening is not a thorough eye examination. If a child has a vision screening they should also visit the optometrist for a full sight test.
Warning signs to look out for
Some of the most common eye problems in children are conjunctivitis, colour-blindness Myopia, Lazy Eye and Astigmatism. Here are some common warning signs you can look out for in your child to see if their vision is impaired:
- Closing one eye in sunlight or when reading
- Sitting very close to the TV
- Holding a book/screen very close to their face
- Unexplained headaches
- Excessively watery eyes
If your child displays any of these behaviours, they could be signs of eye conditions.
How can I improve my child’s eyesight?
Don’t rub your eyes
Rubbing your eyes can spread germs to the eye area and infections can develop as a result. If children wash their hands regularly this should prevent bacteria from transferring to the eyes.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are harmful to both the skin and the eyes, keeping eyes covered up all year round (but especially when it’s sunny). Wearing a hat with your sunglasses will reduce your UV exposure even more.
Limit screen time
Staring at screens is bad for our eyesight because it dramatically lowers our blink-rate. Staring for such a prolonged period can make eyes feel dry, tired and irritated. Try to encourage your children to blink more when they use their tech. The less time they spend in front of a screen the better, but as we're living in a world that's becoming increasingly reliant on technology, instilling healthy habits around gadgets from a young age will help protect their eyes long-term.
Eat a balanced and varied diet
A balanced diet will have so many positive benefits for children that go beyond eyesight, but improved eye health is also a reason to eat well. Foods that are particularly good for eyes include fish, nuts, seeds, legumes and leafy greens like spinach or kale.
It's important to look after your eyes at every stage in your life and it's especially important for young children. Use our tips to help protect your children's eyes from potential problems.