Parents have a lot to worry about when it comes to their children’s health. Yearly check-ups are important whether it’s with the pediatrician or the dentist. But when is it time to go to the eye doctor? It can be hard to tell if your child has visual problems at a young age, so even infants should be getting occasional eye exams. But just when do you get your child’s eye exam? It depends on their age and risk level.
How Old is Your Child?
Generally speaking, it’s recommended that children get their first exam between 6 and 12 months of age. They should have another exam between 3 and 5 years of age. After that, they should have one exam before first grade and then yearly after that.
These guidelines are considered the minimum amount of eye exams, but if your child doesn’t experience any visual problems, this minimum amount is entirely sufficient. However, if your child shows symptoms of visual problems or is considered at risk for visual problems, they may require more frequent eye exams.
Is Your Child at High Risk or Low Risk for Visual Problems?
In order to determine your child’s risk level, there are a few things you should take note of. Children who are born premature or had trouble with weight and oxygen intake at birth are at higher risk for visual problems. Maternal smoking, an infection during pregnancy, or a particularly difficult labor before birth also may put your child at higher risk. You should also know your family’s medical history– if you have a history genetic or metabolic diseases, congenital cataracts, or even just nearsightedness, your child may be at risk for associated visual problems.
If you do have a child who is considered high risk, there’s no need to fret or take them into the eye doctor when nothing is wrong. If your child has any of these potential risk factors, their pediatrician will be able to monitor and recommend when they need to see an eye doctor. Once they get in to see an eye doctor, the doctor can then recommend how often they should come in to be examined. It’s entirely possible a high-risk child never develops any visual problems– but it’s best to play things safe so any issues can be spotted early.
For older children, other factors may constitute a need for an immediate eye exam. If your child begins to struggle academically, it’s often a sign that they aren’t seeing well enough. Many schools also give eye exams to their students every couple of years and can recommend to parents when their child shows signs of any visual problems. If your child’s teacher or school administrators recommend they have an eye exam, it’s usually best to schedule one as soon as possible instead of waiting until their next annual exam.