August: Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month

Start the new school year out right by making sure that your child is seeing clearly.

August 18, 2016

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It's back to school season and the list of to-do's for parents and caretakers is usually a long one. Kids need new clothes, shoes, backpacks and their annual physical exam. Often overlooked is an annual eye exam for kids. That’s why August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. Just remember: back to school, back to the eye doctor!

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), vision is an important part of a child’s development because the brain learns how to see, just like the brain helps a child learn to walk and form words to talk. If a vision problem goes undiagnosed and untreated, then the brain learns to compensate and accommodate that vision problem.

Child vision issues are hard to detect, so it’s important to bring them to a doctor as early as 3-years-old. Some signs of vision issues, include:

  • Wandering or crossed eyes.
  • A family history of childhood vision problems.
  • Disinterest in reading or viewing distant objects.
  • Squinting or turning the head in an unusual manner while watching television.

Starlight Partners Specializing in Eye Health

Starlight Children’s Foundation has several partners specializing in pediatric vision health, including Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. They treat more than 8,000 ophthalmic pediatric cases a year, including the rarest forms of eye disease. Check out Dr. Hilda Capo of Bascom’s pediatric ophthalmology discussing some of the common eye problems found in children.

Massachusetts Eye and Ear specializes in newborn to children age 17. Every day, they perform between ten and 29 surgeries including tonsils, adenoids, ear tubes, ENT plastics, eardrum repairs, eye exams under anesthesia, retina blastoma and glaucoma to name a few.

Another Starlight partner, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mt. Sinai, was established in 1820. It’s a not-for-profit specialty hospital that provides comprehensive outpatient and surgical care for Ophthalmology, Head & Neck Surgery, and Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery.

The AOA has some tips and information to help in the development of a child’s vision, including using playtime activities, games and toys to develop and sharpen their visual skills.

Protect the Eyes

Pediatric vision health is much more than getting a child’s eyes checked. It also includes taking preventive measures to ensure the safety of a child’s eyesight that could result from playing sports, playing with toys and sun exposure.

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), the leading cause of blindness and eye injuries in school-age children in the United States are sports-related. Ninety percent of those injuries can be prevented if a child uses protective eyewear, according to the NEI.

Many sports, including hockey, baseball and swimming already include protective gear for the face and eyes for some positions. Unfortunately, most youth sports leagues do not require protective gear, so it’s up to parents and coaches to insist children wear safety glasses and goggles, safety shields and eye guards when they play. The NEI indicates ordinary prescription glasses, contact lenses, and sunglasses do not protect against eye injuries and safety goggles should be worn over them.

Playing with certain toys can also lead to serious eye injuries and blindness. Almost half the toy-related injuries reported in the U.S. are to the head and face area, according to a 2014 report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The website All About Vision provides a list of toys that should be avoided to prevent eye injuries, including water balloon launchers, toy swords, wands and laser pointers. You can read the full list here.

Another crucial way to protect your kids eyes are proper protection from the sun. Just like sunblock, a pair of sunglasses with UV protection is just as important when going outside. Children's developing eyes are at special risk to UV radiation.

In conclusion, children's eyesight should not be overlooked on your back to school to-do-list. If your kids will be joining a sports team, talk with their coaches about protective eyewear because eye health is important for a child's development.

RUBY LANE

My name is Ruby Lane and I am 10 months old. I was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Coffin-Siris Syndrome. There are only about 160 people in the world with this syndrome and the variation that I have is shared by only 4% of those diagnosed. So I am a really special girl.

Due my illness, I have been very really slow to grow: I was 3lbs. 12oz. when I was born full term and I now weigh just 10lbs. 4oz. I have a G-tube for my nutrition because I have difficulty swallowing, I have hearing loss in my right ear so I wear a pink glittery hearing aid and I also have nystagmus which means my eyes have trouble focusing so they move back and forth quickly. I see lots of doctors to keep up on my progress, genetics, hematology, cardiology, gastroenterology and ophthalmology, and I see an Ear Nose and Throat specialist in addition to my wonderful Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist and Nutritionist.

I love to smile and laugh, I can roll over and hold my toys up to play. I have a big brother who likes to play with me and give me kisses, and I have so many people who pray for me and my family.

RubyLane02

If you’d like to support Starlight and help more children like Ruby, make a donation today. You can help kids, siblings and parents relieve stress, experience joy and bring happiness to hospitalized kids.

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