July is Children's Eye Health and Safety Month

With active summer activities including swimming and possible exposure to fireworks, this is  an important time  for parents and caregivers to keep several precautions in mind.  First, the screenings received in a pediatrician’s office or at a school are just that: a screening. It is not a substitute for a comprehensive eye examination by a qualified eye professional. The American Optometric Association recommends that ALL children from ages 3 through 5 receive a dilated eye examination. It is estimated that 80% of classroom education is taught visually, so the inability to see clearly can affect a child’s academic performance, athletic performance, and self-esteem.

Infants may also need an eye examination if there is evidence of crossed eyes, if they frequently rub their eyes, or if there is a white or unusual reflection in photographs instead of the normal red eye reflection.  Common signs of vision problems in older children include squinting, tilting or turning their head to look at objects, wandering/crossed eyes, and problems recognizing colors.  The good news is that many of these eye conditions can be fully treated if they are diagnosed early!

Eye protection is vital for all children. Thousands of children sustain eye injuries daily and 90% of those injuries can be prevented with suitable protective eyewear. Protective eyewear made from lightweight polycarbonate is activity-specific for sports, science labs, and vocational shops and should always be worn. Purchasing age appropriate toys that meet the safety standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials is also important.

If your child should experience an eye injury, DO NOT allow the child to rub or touch the eye, DO NOT apply medication to the eye and DO NOT attempt to remove any debris from the eye. If the eye injury is caused by a chemical splash, flush the eye IMMEDIATELY with sterile saline (if possible) or water for 15 minutes then seek immediate medical attention from an eye doctor. The Callahan Eye Foundation Emergency Room at 1720 University Blvd is open 24 hours every day if an eye doctor is unavailable.

Finally, since children spend much more time outdoors than most adults, sunglasses that block 100% of the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays are necessary. Children's eyes are more susceptible to UV radiation because the lens inside a child's eye is less capable of filtering high-energy rays so it's wise for kids to start wearing protective sunglasses outdoors as early as possible.Also, be aware that your child's exposure to UV rays increases in tropical locations, in highly reflective environments, and at high altitudes so protective sunglasses are especially important while they are on a sandy beach, on the water, or in a snowfield.

We at Morris Avenue Eyecare want our children to be happy, healthy and free from harm. Yearly wellness check-ups, comprehensive eye examinations and safe toys will help attain those goals.  Please call Dr. Valencia Wells at (205) 328-1744 if you have any additional questions.  Dr. Wells is the wife of Mr. Willie Wells, III, owner of Escape Graphics and a board member at Childcare Resources.