Author: Vanessa Thai
Developmental and Behavioural Optometrist
Central Health Southside – Child Development Team
Whether your child’s glasses are for near or distance vision, it is essential that they wear them as prescribed. It is helpful to inform your child’s teachers and caregivers that your child requires glasses for optimal vision and should wear them consistently at school or when away from home.
When the Glasses are New
During the initial weeks of wearing glasses, observe and ask your child to communicate any issues they may be experiencing. Check that the glasses are well-fitting and that your child is looking properly through the lenses and not over or under the glasses. If you have any concerns, promptly inform your optometrist
Initially, your child may not be enthusiastic about wearing glasses. You can reassure your child that many kids and adults wear glasses to improve their vision. Point out family members, classmates, and characters in books and movies who wear glasses as positive role models. If possible, have family members also wear non-prescription glasses to normalise the process. Children often imitate what they see, so setting a good example in terms of wearing and caring for glasses is beneficial.
Remind your child that glasses are delicate and can be easily damaged, scratched, or broken. Teach them to never place glasses with the lenses facing down on any surface, as even small particles of dust or dirt can scratch the lenses. Emphasise to your child the importance of using both hands when removing their glasses to protect the hinges.
Glasses and Sports
For children who participate in sports, it is important to remember that regular glasses do not protect against sports-related injuries. Ensure that your child wears appropriate sports safety eyewear whenever they are engaged in sports activities. Prescription swimming and ski goggles can be made up for children requiring refractive correction.
Treatment for amblyopia (otherwise known as “lazy eye”) typically involves encouraging your child to use their weaker eye, by patching the stronger eye or using eye drops to blur vision in the stronger eye. Sometimes, the stronger eye may be penalised with a blurring spectacle lens.
It usually takes several weeks to months to strengthen vision in the weaker eye. After improvement, part-time patching may be continued for a few years to prevent regression. The daily duration of patching can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the child’s response to treatment.
When choosing an eye patch, it should be comfortable and secure to prevent peeking around the edges. Avoid using pirate-type eye patches with elastic bands or ties, as they can be easily removed. If your child wears glasses, patches designed to attach to the lens can be used, but they may not be suitable for beginners. For optimal results, it is recommended to place the patch directly on the stronger eye beneath the glasses.
Compliance with patching can be challenging, as it may be upsetting for your child to have their stronger eye patched or blurred. Offering praise and incentives for when the patch is worn correctly can help prevent its removal. It may take time for your child to adjust to wearing the patch, but strengthening the weaker eye is crucial for developing healthy vision.
Engaging in activities that require focus and concentration is beneficial while enhancing the effectiveness of the patching treatment for your child, a process called “active patching”. These activities can include reading, drawing, colouring, connecting dots, or any other enjoyable close-range task that requires attention to detail.
Parents should explain the importance of wearing the eye patch to children and assure them that many children wear patches for the same reason. Encouraging your child to practice putting an eye patch on a doll or decorating their patch can help. Parents can also wear a patch to normalise the procedure and support their child through the process. Informing your child’s teacher about the treatment and asking for positive reinforcement can be beneficial.
While it is a rare occurrence, patching can sometimes weaken the stronger eye; therefore, regular optometry visits are important to monitor the progress and vision in both eyes. Skin irritation near the patch can be addressed by trying different sizes or types of patches and changing the angle of the patch daily. Parents should keep an eye on the child’s activities initially to ensure safety while wearing the patch, especially when they are climbing stairs or being active.
Promoting Eye Safety and Protection
Eye injuries pose a significant risk of blindness in children, and many of these injuries can occur at home, school, and during sports and hobbies.
Common causes of eye injuries include impact, dust, chemicals, heat, radiation, and UV radiation. While the eye has natural protective features, such as sockets, eyebrows, eyelids, eyelashes, and tears, additional safeguards like sports goggles and safety glasses are essential.
In case of an injury, follow these first-aid tips:
- Flush the eyes with water instead of rubbing them if dust or sand
- If exposed to chemicals like paint or glue, flush the eyes with water for at least 15 minutes and seek an eye examination.
- For blunt foreign object impacts, like a ball, relieve any swelling with a cold cloth without applying pressure for 15 minutes.
- In case of serious or penetrating injuries, head directly to the hospital emergency room.