The eyes may be called the windows of the soul, but as a parent they aren't so easy to read. When it comes to our children's eyes, if we're not worrying about whether our child needs glasses, we're wondering whether it's too early to take them for an eye test.
That’s why we talked to Claire Slade, Superintendent Optometrist at Asda, to get her advice on all things sight-related – so that you can feel a bit more comfortable when dealing with your children’s sight in future.
As it turns out, there are some cues to look out for should your child need glasses. As Claire says, ‘If your child isn’t keen to read; rubs their eyes while looking at books; or loses their place when reading, they could have a problem with their vision… Other signs include headaches, and one eye turning in or out – even if temporarily.’
It's actually a myth that there might be too young an age to be concerned, so don’t feel embarrassed raising anything with your opticians. As Claire points out, the earlier a problem is detected, the better the chances are of getting it treated.
‘Whether or not you suspect something’s wrong, your child is never too young to have their eyes examined at an opticians,’ says Claire. ‘Parents should bring children in for an eye test before they start school, at four to five years old. And because many schools no longer offer free eye testing, it’s even more important to organise a check-up. It doesn’t matter if your child can’t read letters – the optometrist will use other tests to test for short-or long-sightedness or astigmatism, which causes blurred vision.’
So what should you be looking out for?
1. Squinting or Tilting
If your child is regularly squinting or straining at objects such as the TV, they may be subconsciously trying to improve poor vision in one or both eyes. Also if you notice a reoccurring head tilt, this could be a symptom that your child is trying to improve their focus or even cancel out double vision.
2. Sitting Too Close To The Screen
If they've got their nose pressed up to any screen, book or otherwise. This can be because they are short or near sighted and their vision is better the closer they get to a book or screen.
3. Struggling At School
Eye problems can often rear their head in less conventional ways. Got a child with poor concentration or a short attention span? They may be getting frustrated with blackboards or workbooks that they can't see clearly.
4. Problems Reading
Anything from finger pointing, skipping, re-reading words, or losing their place could point to underlying sight problems.
5. Excessive Eye Rubbing
Just as a wound will itch as it heals, so too might an issue when their eyes exhibit physical signs. Things such as excessive blinking, rubbing or even watering could signal that your child is struggling to focus.
6. Problems Playing
If your child hates PE, has problems such as struggling to catch the ball, or running into things on and off the pitch, this could be a sign that they don’t judge distances well – something that could be tied into their vision.
7. Light Sensitivity
We all get a little squinty if we step out into roaring sunlight from a dark interior, but if it takes your child a ridiculously long time for their eyes to adjust to sunlight or their eyes hurt in the sun, this will be something an Optometrist will be able to advise on.
8. Frequent Headaches
Regular headaches can often indicate underlying eyestrain, so this could be a sign that your child is over compensating for poor eyesight.
9. Covering One Eye
If the child is blocking one eye with their hand while reading or watching television, they may be trying to balance out double vision, or attempting to cut out the poorer vision in the eye that they are closing.
10. If The Parents Wear Glasses
Never underestimate genetics. Your child may be more likely to need glasses if you or your partner, or even their grandparents, wear them, so be sure to inform the opticians.
If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s often better to get them checked out at your local opticians just to be safe. For more information, you can refer to the NHS website. The good news is that all children under the age of 16 get free eye tests and glasses with an NHS voucher – so why not go along to your local Asda Optician for a check-up?