In our last post about children’s eye health, we focused on the importance of regular eye exams. As we near the end of Prevent Blindness America’s (PBA) Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, we turn to keeping eyes safe at home.
While an optometrist or ophthalmologist handles the technical side of children’s eye health, parents and children themselves can take steps to battle daily eye challenges and unexpected mishaps.
From petting dogs to playing baseball, throwing mud to swimming in the ocean, kids are frequently interacting with the world in a way that can lead to damage to the eyes if they’re not careful.
A sports-related eye injury is treated in an emergency room every 13 minutes. And of all those injuries, a staggering 43 percent affect children 14 years of age and younger. (Prevent Blindness America)
It’s essential to make sure kids have undergone eye exams prior to playing sports, especially team sports in which their performance might affect or harm others. Good eyesight can not only increase the safety of your child and other children by minimizing collisions or accidents, but can also give your child the best possibility for success.
Helmets, face masks, and headgear are commonly worn in sports such as baseball, hockey or football. But nearly every sport would be made safer with the inclusion of proper safety goggles. Most kids don’t use them—they’re a tough sell to a child who might wind up as the only one on the team wearing any. In that case, it’s a good idea to impress upon your child the importance of protecting their eyes and letting an adult know when they’ve been hurt.
Outside and at play
You can’t constantly keep an eye on your children, so make sure you take a few simple precautions to protect their eyes when they are playing.
One of the most common causes of eye injuries are toys, whether from improper use or from allowing a child to play with age-inappropriate toys.
Encourage safe fun by following a few safety measures:
- Read instructions and warnings before giving a toy to your child
- Make sure a toy is appropriate for the age of your child
- Skip toys that have sharp corners, spikes, or edges
- Be extra careful with toys that fire projectiles
- Warn your child about the dangers of throwing toys, especially at others
Sometimes we forget that sunglasses are for more than just reducing glare and looking stylish. The fact is that everyone should be careful when exposing their eyes to sunlight, and especially children, whose eyes do not have the same abilities as adults’ to filter out UV radiation. (Prevent Blindess America)
Whenever possible, protect your children’s eyes from the sun with a wide-brimmed hat and well-fitting, sturdy sunglasses that filter out 99 to 100 percent of UV rays.
However, this is not to say that all sun exposure is unsafe for children. Emerging evidence suggests that playing outdoors, and specifically, the resultant exposure to some UV light, may actually slow the development of nearsightedness. (AAO)
Safety in the home
Children spend a lot of time in the home and eye injuries can occur from playing, accidents, or simply an overabundance of curiosity. Luckily, many of the most common injuries can be avoided by taking a few steps:
- Install safety gates at stairs and between rooms that might be dangerous
- Fix sharp furniture corners and edges with padding
- Install child locks on cabinets
- Make sure detergents, pesticides, sharp tools, or any dangerous items are stored securely
- Ensure proper lighting in all areas of your house
First aid for eyes
Even the most attentive safety precautions can’t prevent all injuries. If something should happen to your child’s eyes, here are some tips for how to handle it:
Chemicals in the eyes
If your child should ever get dangerous chemicals in their eyes, here is the immediate treatment to pursue, as suggested by Prevent Blindness America (PBA):
“Immediately flush the eye with water or any other drinkable liquid. Hold the eye under a faucet or shower, or pour water into the eye using a clean container. Keep the eye open and as wide as possible while flushing. Continue flushing for at least 15 minutes.”
Additionally, do not use an eye cup and do not bandage the eye. Don’t worry about removing contacts—simply wash over them. After the flushing, immediately seek medical attention.
Debris in the eye
Don’t rub or scratch the eye. Instead, try to allow the tears to remove the obstruction naturally. Otherwise, try lifting the top eyelid up and over the bottom one, allowing the bottom to act as a brush as the top moves back into place. If the problem persists, bandage the eye and seek medical treatment.
Impacts to the eye
Ice the area without putting pressure on the eye itself. Monitor for changes in color to the skin around the eye, persistent pain, or damaged vision—should any of these occur, see a doctor.
Puncture to the eye or eyelid
Seek medical treatment immediately. Don’t attempt to wash the eye or remove the item if still stuck. If possible, before seeing a doctor, cover the eye with a sturdy shield without applying pressure.
A final thought on eye health
As you’ve read, there is a lot of information to consider when it comes to children’s eye health. Perhaps one of the simplest but most effective tools is convincing your child of how important their eyes are. If your children can begin to understand that their eyes are fragile and essential, then they are more likely to treat them as such. This could result in your children approaching activities with eye safety in mind—thinking before rubbing or scratching them and even being more diligent in reporting injuries, discomfort, or possible vision problems.
Don’t forget to celebrate all that your eyes can do! Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month isn’t just a time for worrying about eyes—it’s also a good time to remember the important part they play in children’s development. Take care of your eyes so you can spend less time worrying and more time flying kites, doing puzzles, reading books, and whatever else you and your kids love to do with your eyes.
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- ”Protecting young children from eye injuries at home and at play.” Prevent Blindness. 2016.