As millions of children return to school after a two-year absence, parents and kids alike are both excited and nervous but while the fear of Covid-19 persists, most of us have overlooked an important factor when sending our children to school: an eye examination. Children’s eye exams are often neglected and the last two years have been difficult for all of us, particularly the children who had to spend hours on their phones or laptops for online classes.
Due to lockdown restrictions, eye health was also 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 eyesight and myopia (near-sightedness) are the most commonly reported eye problems in children under the age of 12, only 50% of parents are keen to take their children for regular eye exams.
The survey states that while 68% of Indian parents believe that their children’s vision is important to them, only 46% of them have their children’s eyes tested on a regular basis. As a result, the number of myopia cases reported in children under the age of 12 has increased dramatically. In India, 23-30% of children suffer from myopia, particularly those who live in cities and spend less time outside in the sun.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Rishi Raj Borah, Country Director at Orbis India, revealed, “Children’s eyesight is also severely harmed by excessive exposure to television, mobile phones, computer screens, and other digital devices. The pandemic increased screen time for children, thus affecting their eyes. Furthermore, excessive rubbing of the eyes due to air pollution can result in 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, children with poor vision are more likely to have poor academic performance and be absent from school. Dr Rishi Raj Borah advised, “It’s critical that parents select lighting options for their homes that reduce glare or flicker, both of which can cause eye discomfort and headaches. While there are a number of ways to prevent eye problems in children, the most important preventive measure is still regular eye examinations.”
Why eye examinations are important?
According to Dr Rishi Raj Borah, children’s eye examinations are very important to ensure that their eyes are healthy and that they do not have any vision problems that could interfere with their schoolwork or jeopardise their safety. According to experts, approximately 25% of school children have vision problems that can affect their academic performance and in addition, 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 examined?
Dr Rishi Raj Borah answered, “Eye check-ups should start when a child is six months old. At the age of three, children should have another eye exam, 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 other year. An annual eye exam, or as recommended by their optometrist or ophthalmologist, is required for children who need glasses or contact lenses.”
Tips for parents
Dr Rishi Raj Borah suggested:
1. Reading the signs – Not only should parents be concerned about their children’s overall health, but also about their eyes. They must pay special attention to vision problems. Covering one eye, reading with materials too close to the face, a 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 are using 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 correct eye gear – Make sure your kids wear protective eyewear when they’re playing sports and sunglasses that protect them from the sun when they’re outside.