When Should Your Child Have Their First Eye Test?

child's eye test

For parents, a child’s health is always of paramount importance. If a child falls over and breaks a bone, we rush them to A&E as quickly as possible. If they get ill, we take them to the GP. But being able to tell whether a child has problems with their vision is far more difficult, particularly with infants.

The ramifications of not addressing eyesight problems in children can have a lasting effect on their lives, so it’s of the utmost importance that any concerns are dealt with sooner rather than later. Often children may not realise that they have a problem with their eyesight so, by not taking them for an eyesight test, there is a substantial risk that problems may remain undiagnosed for a long time. This can affect their education, so an early diagnosis is always preferable.

However, can it ever be too early? How do you effectively check an infant’s eyesight if they cannot read? How often should a child’s eyesight be checked? Here we demystify the health of your child’s eyes and how you can best protect them against damage.

When To Take Your Child To The Opticians

Just 72 hours after birth, a newborn baby can have what is called a newborn physical examination . This examination isn’t compulsory, however, it is highly recommended to check the child’s health early on. During this examination, the baby’s heart, hips, testicles (if it’s a boy) and eyes will be examined. During the eye examination, the health examiner will look at the appearance and movement of the eyes. This is primarily looking for cataracts and other obvious eye health issues, however, this test does not account for how well your child can see.

Between the ages of one and two and a half years old, it may be suggested that you attend a health and development review to discover whether there are any significant causes for concern. Again, this review can include eye tests and if there are some concerns over your child’s sight then examinations can be arranged.

As children of this age cannot communicate to you that there is an issue with their eyesight, it’s imperative that you look for signs so that you can communicate this to the nurse who performs these development reviews. Babies older than 3 months should be able to track moving objects with their eyes. So, if your baby doesn’t seem to be following toys or balls with their eyes, it’s worth mentioning this to a health professional.

If your child has any of the following symptoms, then these may all be signs of an eyesight problem:

  • Eyes are crossed or misaligned
  • Eyes regularly flutter quickly from side to side
  • There is a white coloured spot in the pupil of their eye
  • The eyes have a tendency to be watery
  • The corners of the eye have a lot of crust or pus around them
  • There is a redness in the eye that doesn’t go away

If there are obvious signs of eyesight problems in your infant then an optician will be able to check their vision through a few different methods. Often they will check the eyes for response to light, pupil response, the ability to follow a moving target like a toy or visually evoked response testing. Visually evoked response testing stimulates the eyes with a bright light and then records electrical activity in the brain to discern whether there is any cause for concern.

If your child is showing no causes for concern at an early age, then it’s worth waiting a little while longer before taking them for their first eye exam. Just as they reach school age is usually a good standard to take them for a full eye exam. Even when there seem to be no obvious issues, making sure that your child’s eyesight is healthy before they go to school is advisable so that anything that might affect their learning and early education can be addressed and solved quickly. After the first test, it’s recommended that you and your child return every two years for a check-up.

Eye test costs vary from practice to practice for adults. However, children under the age of 16 are entitled to sight tests for free under the NHS. This funding also provides a voucher that can go towards the cost of a pair of glasses or contact lenses, should your child require some.

Types of Eye Wear and Contact Lenses For Children

If you’ve discovered that your child will need to start wearing glasses or contact lenses, now the struggle of getting him or her to actually wear them begins!

First of all, it’s imperative to get the prescription right for your child’s glasses so always consult with the optician on the correct thickness of the lenses. If the lenses are particularly thick, then it’s worth looking into lightweight frames to reduce the overall weight of the glasses. In terms of frame size, for thick lenses, it’s best to opt for thin frames as the thickness of the lenses must be accommodated into the overall size of the glasses.

When children first start wearing glasses at school, it can be a stressful experience for them. A little teasing is always slightly expected, but to avoid that as much as possible, always keep fashion in mind when you’re choosing the type of glasses. Making sure your kid excited about their glasses is the ultimate goal, so give them some level of autonomy over the style of glasses they choose, without letting them choose something too inappropriate.

For toddlers with poor eyesight, you may need to opt for ‘cable temple’ glasses. This style of spectacle wrap around the back of the ears to avoid them slipping off. We know how toddlers can be! Other options for children who must wear their glasses all the time and are especially young are strap glasses, which strap all the way around the head.

When purchasing your child’s glasses, it’s also worth getting a second pair at the same time as they are likely to break or get lost in the rough and tumble of childhood.

What Else Should I Be Doing For My Child’s Eye Care?

Aside from ensuring that you get your child’s eyes tested every two years and that you have any potential issues diagnosed early, there are some simple lifestyle choices that you can make to keep their eyes as healthy as possible.

Making sure that you’re always eating healthily is a great place to start. It can be hard to get children to try new things, but doing so will give your child’s eyes all of the nutrition that they need to stay sharp and healthy. Fruit and vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, melon and blueberries are great for eye health, as well as chicken, fish and eggs. If your child is a very fussy eater, then it’s a good idea to make these types of food fun. Try using a biscuit cutter to cut fish and chicken into fun shapes that will entice them to eat up.

On sunny days, it’s really important to always cover your child’s eyes, so ensure you get them some sunglasses that they like and that have a CE; UV 400 standard mark to signify that they have the right level of protection.

Although it’s important to protect your child’s eyes when they’re outside, research also shows that playtime outdoors and stimulating the senses can be beneficial for eye health so try and get out as much as possible.

Who We Are

If you’re looking for professional eye care in Hertfordshire, look no further than David Paul Opticians. We’ve gained over three decades worth of experience in the industry and always place the customer at the centre of everything we do.

As well as providing state of the art eye examinations and always keeping in the loop of industry developments, we also have a broad range of men and women's designer prescription glasses. From regular eyesight tests to advanced eye examinations , we can help you better understand your eye health and detect a wide range of eye conditions.

To find out more and make an appointment, contact us today. We’re conveniently located at 236 High Street, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 1AG. You can call us on 01442 879 303 or email us at info@davidpaul.co.uk.