Eye Health Central

5 Tell tale signs your child needs to see an Optometrist

5 Signs Your Child Needs To See An Optometrist

Child rubbing eyes

Eye-sight is undoubtedly one of our most precious senses, and the one sense we fear losing the most, a study carried out by Novartis showed that Survey  85% of respondents were most afraid to lose their eyesight of their five senses.

That's not surprising, sight impacts so much of what we experience in the world and plays a significant part in a child's early development.

Unfortunately, not everyone is blessed with perfect vision, and the earlier we recognise this the sooner vision can be corrected, this is particularly important with young children.

Good, or preferably perfect eyesight is essential for a child's early development, both socially, mentally, and educationally. Poor eyesight can cause a child to become withdrawn, feel isolated, and fall behind their peers at school.

So much value is put on vision that a child's eyes are checked several times before they reach the age of 5.

Most people think that a child needs to be able to read before having an eye test but this is not true, an Ophthalmologist or Optometrist can test a child's eyes and vision at any age, in fact, your child's first eye test probably took place in the hospital before you took them home.

At What Age Are A Child's Eyes Tested

72 hours - A child's first eye test, or check, is carried out when a baby is just 72 hours old, this is often carried out in the hospital but can be done at home. A health care professional such as a doctor, midwife or health visitor will check your child's eyes as part of their newborn physical examination, this is a general examination to check for any problems so that any treatment needed can begin as soon as possible.

6-8 weeks - This is a follow-up general examination to check for any obvious problems or anything that may not have been obvious earlier - this is normally carried out by your family doctor this could be at the doctor's office, community clinic, or at home.

1 year or between 2 and 2.5 years - As a child develops they have regular health checks with your health visitor these are an opportunity for you to raise any questions you have about your child's development and vision, the health visitor can arrange an eye test if it is thought necessary.

4-5 years- A child's vision is normally checked soon after they begin school, this vision screening test is often offered at school and aims to detect any reduced vision in one or both eyes. Should a problem be detected then the child is referred to an optometrist.

Vision screening is not offered by all schools, if your child's school does not offer this then you should take your child to an optometrist for a sight test, A child does not need to read for this test as an optometrist will use a specific eye chart for children, often consisting of animal silhouettes.

Childs sight test chart

How Do I Know If My Child Needs To See An Optometrist

Young children do not always know that their eyesight is poor, they may think it’s normal that faces or words are blurred, this is why it’s important for parents and carers to be aware of the signs that indicate a child may need to see an optometrist and have their vision checked.

5 key indicators that your child needs a sight test

Holding a book or tablet too close to the eyes when reading - Poor vision can become more obvious once a child learns to read or starts school. One of the signs of poor vision is a child holding a reading book very close to their eyes- this could be a sign of Myopia (nearsightedness) or holding the book at arm's length -Hyperopia (farsightedness), so it's worth getting their eyesight tested.

Sitting too close to the TV or computer screen - Often the first time a parent notices a child might have a vision problem is when they notice their child likes to sit very close to the TV or computer. Children should not need to sit close to the TV or computer screen to see it clearly, so if your child is doing this regularly it is a good indicator that they should see an optometrist for a sight test. as it may be a sign of short-sightedness.

Headaches and Squinting often - A child may complain of headaches - these could be muscle tension headaches due to squinting. Excessive squinting is always worth getting checked out by an optometrist.

Rubbing their eyes often - A child may not know that their vision is not perfect and can often try rubbing their eyes hoping it will make them see clearer.
Children rubbing their eyes can be a sign that they are experiencing impaired vision or suffering from an allergy such as hay fever and can lead to a higher risk of conjunctivitis, if you notice your child rubs their eyes frequently take it as a sign that they should see an optometrist.

Finding some sports difficult - Poor hand-eye coordination is not always an eyesight problem but if your child has difficulties with catching a ball, or judging distances it may be a case that their vision is not as good as it should be. Having perfect, or, corrected vision can make the difference between avoiding or enjoying sport.

Most high street opticians have great ranges of glasses for children, and did you know children as young as 8 years old can successfully wear contact lenses, although it is worth noting that parental consent is needed for children under the age of 16. 

If you have any concerns about your child's vision see a GP or make an appointment with an optician, a child under the age of 16 (and up to the age of 19 if in full-time education) is entitled to a free sight test covered by the NHS, they are also eligible for an NHS optical voucher to help towards the cost of glasses or contact lenses. 

Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 27 May 2019, Last modified: 20 May 2024