As millions of children return to school after a two-year absence, parents and children are both excited and nervous, but as the fear of Covid-19 lingers, most of us have overlooked an important factor when sending our children to school: an eye exam. Children’s eye exams are often overlooked and the past two years have been difficult for all of us, especially the children who have had to spend hours on their phones or laptops taking online lessons.
Due to lockdown restrictions, eye health has also been neglected at this time. Back-to-school preparations should include an eye exam as children return to in-person learning.
According to a survey, while eye allergies, worsening vision and nearsightedness (myopia) are the most commonly reported eye problems in children under 12, only 50% of parents want to take their children for regular eye exams.
The survey indicates that while 68% of Indian parents think their children’s vision is important to them, only 46% of them have their children’s eyes tested regularly. As a result, the number of myopia cases reported in children under 12 years of age has increased dramatically. In India, 23-30% of children suffer from myopia, especially those who live in cities and spend less time outdoors in the sun.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr. Rishi Raj Borah, Country Director of Orbis India, revealed, “Children’s eyesight is also severely damaged by excessive exposure to television, mobile phones, computer screens and to other digital devices. The pandemic has increased children’s screen time, affecting their eyes. Additionally, excessive rubbing of the eyes due to air pollution can lead to blurred vision. When it comes to artificial lighting, Indian parents report that their children spend at least 14 hours indoors, and the majority believe that lighting has a direct impact on a child’s ability to concentrate.
According to experts, visually impaired children are more likely to perform poorly in school and to be absent from school. Dr Rishi Raj Borah advised: “It is essential that parents select lighting options for their home that reduce glare or flicker, both of which can cause eye discomfort and headaches. Although there are a number of ways to prevent eye problems in children, the most important preventative measure is regular eye exams.
Why are eye exams important?
According to Dr. Rishi Raj Borah, children’s eye exams are very important to ensure that their eyes are healthy and that they do not have vision problems that could interfere with their school work or compromise their security. According to experts, about 25% of school children have vision problems that can affect their performance in school and moreover, the risk of myopia and its progression continues throughout the school years.
If a child is suspected of having reading or learning difficulties, a comprehensive eye exam should be performed to rule out the need for glasses.
Who should have their eyes checked?
Dr Rishi Raj Borah replied, “Eye exams should start when a child is six months old. At the age of three, children must undergo another eye examination and another before entering first grade. Between the ages of five and six, they should have another eye exam. If no vision correction is required, an eye exam for school-aged children should be done every two years. An annual eye exam, or as recommended by their optometrist or ophthalmologist, is required for children who require glasses or contact lenses.
Advice for parents
Dr. Rishi Raj Borah suggested:
1. Read the signs – Not only should parents be concerned about the overall health of their children, but also their eyes. They should pay special attention to vision problems. Covering one eye, reading with documents too close to the face, short attention span, and complaints of headaches or discomfort are all signs that a child may have a vision problem.
2. Keep an eye on how kids use digital devices – Digital eye strain can be caused by prolonged use of electronic devices. Burning or itchy eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and exhaustion are all possible symptoms. Doctors recommend taking 20-minute breaks and adjusting the computer screen to avoid glare.
3. Wear the right eye gear – Make sure your children wear protective eyewear when playing sports and sunglasses that protect them from the sun when outdoors.