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The 411 on Eye Care for Your Kids

The 411 on Eye Care for Your Kids

How often have you told your kids to crunch on carrots because they’re good for their eyes? Maybe you’ve scolded them for sitting too close to the TV, because that’s what you heard growing up, or for staring at the computer for too long because you read that it could cause their eyes to cross. But are those old nuggets of wisdom true? Don’t worry, we’ve compiled advice from our Sharecare experts to answer the top questions about kids’ eye health.

Kid’s Eye Care: Quick Basics

  • Do children need eye exams? Eye exams, most important right after birth and around age three, are as crucial to your child’s overall health and development as blood tests and other standard screenings. Most vision problems are treatable when caught early, and eye exams are the easiest way to detect these issues. Problems with children’s vision are often subtle and hard to detect, but you can help by looking out any changes in what experts call “eye work.” This could be a change from reading frequently to not reading much, or suddenly having trouble seeing in lower-light environments. Watch for these signs of vision problems in kids.
  • Do children need to see an eye specialist? Unless your young child is showing signs of a specific eye problem, it’s okay to have his eyes checked at his regular well-child pediatric visits. The pediatrician will refer you to an eye specialist if there are any potentially serious eye issues. As children get older, vision screenings are often performed at school, although these may not be very thorough. Some experts recommend a complete eye exam by an eye specialist before your child starts school, and then annually or as often as needed thereafter.  

 Protecting Your Child’s Sight

  • Do children need to wear their glasses all the time? Yes, if your son or daughter was prescribed glasses, it’s because they need them. For some kids, having something on their faces can be bothersome. They might take their glasses off or resist wearing them. But consistent use is key in these years when the eyes and brain are developing and learning to work together. And glasses may prevent problems like crossed eyes.
  • What are the best foods for kids’ eyes? One of the best lines of defense against future eye problems is nutrition. Make sure you keep dinner plates and lunch boxes packed with foods that support eye health, such as strawberries and oranges, which are packed with vitamin C; zinc-rich foods like turkey and chicken; and almonds or peanut butter for vitamin E. Also try to include foods rich in omega-3s, such as canned tuna, in your child’s diet if you can. Are carrots really good for your eyes? Dr. Oz's answer may surprise you.
  • Will staring at the computer too long damage my child’s eyes? No, staring at a computer (or TV) screen all day isn’t great for your child overall, but it won’t damage his vision.However, prolonged screen time can cause eyestrain or tired eyes. Make sure kids give their eyes a break by looking up or across the room every 15 minutes or so. Also, make sure the monitor is at least 18-24 inches away from where they sit and tilted at a slight downward angle. Find out why sitting close to the TV may not be as harmful as you thought. 

Clearing Up the Confusion Over Pinkeye:

Does my child need to see the doctor for pinkeye? Yes, it’s important to find out the cause so you can get the right treatment. There are actually three different types of pinkeye:

  • Allergic pink eye is non-infectious and usually causes both eyes to be red, ichy and watery. The best remedy is to avoid whatever triggers your child’s symptoms, such as pollen, animal dander or dust. Your doctor might suggest allergy medications, as well.
  • Viral pink causes one or both eyes to swell. Any discharge will be clear or watery and it may cause your child to be sensitive to light. There’s no treatment for this type; it just has to run its course over a few days.
  • Bacterial pink eye causes painful itching and a substantial amount of yellow or green drainage. It also causes a ‘crusting over’ of the eyes. Bacterial pink eye requires antibiotics, either in pill, eye drops or ointment form.

Check out a few simple things you can do to relieve your child's pinkeye symptoms.

When can my child go back to school? The bacterial and viral forms of conjunctivitis are both highly contagious, and you should not send your child to school or daycare with the infection. If your child has bacterial pinkeye, she can go back to school or daycare 24 hours after starting antibiotics.

Medically reviewed in October 2019.

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