When it comes to kids, some milestones arrive at well-established ages. You know how old your child will be when they enter kindergarten, when they get their driver’s license, and when they graduate from high school. But when should children have their first eye exam? Your child’s vision develops over time, and it’s important that any vision problems are addressed early to protect their visual health. Scroll down to learn when to schedule your child’s first appointment with an optometrist.
Scheduling Your Child’s First Eye Exam
First, it’s important to note that before a child visits an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam, they’re typically “screened” for eye problems. Pediatricians and family doctors often offer vision screenings. They’re also sometimes provided by schools, community health centers, and even community events.
Your newborn baby will be examined by a doctor for basic indicators of eye health. Typically, an eye exam is not required right away. But if your baby is at risk for eye conditions, which we discuss in more detail below, they may require an eye exam sooner. Generally, a child will have their first eye exam at around 6 months of age. A variety of tests are performed to check the health of the eyes and check for issues like misaligned eyes (strabismus), lazy eye (amblyopia), color blindness, and more.
Visual acuity, which refers to the sharpness of vision, is typically tested around age 3.
In addition, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor if you notice your child showing signs of a vision problem, which include the following:
- Sitting close to the TV
- Holding a book close to their face
- Rubbing their eyes frequently
- Tilting their head
- Covering up one eye
- Turning an eye in or out
- Showing sensitivity to light
- Struggling with eye-hand-body coordination
Recommended Frequency of Eye Exams for Children
When should children have their first eye exam? Now that you understand the basics, it’s important to review how frequently your child needs eye exams going forward. After all, vision changes over time and must be reviewed periodically for changes. At Heffington’s, we recommend these examination intervals:
- From Birth to 24 Months: Asymptomatic/risk-free kids should be examined at 6 months of age. At-risk kids should be examined by six months of age or as recommended by their doctor.
- From 2 to 5 Years: Asymptomatic/risk-free kids should have an eye exam at 3 years old. At-risk kids should have an eye exam at 3 years old or as recommended by their doctor.
- From 6 to 18 Years: Asymptomatic/risk-free kids should undergo an eye exam before first grade and every two years thereafter. At-risk kids should undergo eye exams at the examination interval recommended by their doctor.
Is your child high-risk? Your doctor will let you know if you should be concerned about their risk of vision issues and eye health problems. But generally, children with the following characteristics are considered at-risk by eye doctors:
- Babies born prematurely
- Babies with a low birth weight
- Babies born with low oxygen levels
- Babies born with intraventricular hemorrhage
- Children whose families have a history of eye-related conditions (such as congenital cataracts or retinoblastoma)
Finally, children whose mothers have a known infection during pregnancy, including rubella, herpes, venereal disease, or HIV typically require re-evaluation.
If you live in southwest Missouri, stop by Heffington’s. Since 1975, the Heffington family has been assisting the Springfield community with top-quality eye care and affordable eyeglasses and contacts. One of the unique features of our family-owned business is that we manufacture lenses at our own laboratory, giving us total control over the service and pricing, and we’re happy to pass our savings on to you. To learn more about our products and services, please get in touch with us online, send an e-mail to [email protected], or give us a call at 417-869-3937 (Optiland location) or 417-882-3937 (House of Vision location). We look forward to hearing from you!