There are a few reasons to think a little more about eyes this month. First, August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. Second, kids are heading back to school and need vision checks. Third, it’s ragweed season, meaning allergic eye conditions such as conjunctivitis may abound.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology found that as many as 80 percent of preschoolers have not had vision screenings and that nearly 25 percent of school-aged children, not just preschoolers, have vision problems. Studies also show that close to one in 20 children between ages 3 and 5 has a complication that, if left untreated, could lead to serious vision problems. Here’s what the American Optometric Association recommends for kids’ eye exams:
Infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. Children then should receive additional eye exams at 3 years of age, and just before they enter kindergarten or the first grade at about age 5 or 6.
For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every two years if no vision correction is required. Children who need eyeglasses or contact lenses should be examined annually or according to their eye doctor’s recommendations.
Beyond vision, it’s important to take steps to keep the eyes healthy. With ragweed season upon us, allergic conjunctivitis is common. Allergic conjunctivitis is the reaction of the irritated “conjunctiva” – a membrane found inside the eyelids and the eyeball’s covering. This irritation causes inflammation, which makes eyes appear red or pink (hence the term “pink eye.”)
When eyes are exposed to common allergens (such as ragweed or other pollens), conjunctivitis can be triggered. This can lead to maddening itching, eye crusting, and even compromised vision down the line.
If you or your child suffer from allergic conjunctivitis, see a doctor about prescription medications or allergy immunotherapy (through allergy shots or sublingual allergy drops). Medications work well for short-term conjunctivitis episodes, but if the conjunctivitis is long-term or recurring, allergy immunotherapy may be the best bet.