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Children the focus of Eye Health and Safety Month

Healthy eyesight is essential to learning for children and that’s why Prevent Blindness America has declared August as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month.

Now that K-12 area schools are open, Dr. Amanda Quelly, the optometry flight commander with the 72nd Medical Group, wants to remind parents and caretakers to ensure that their children receive an annual comprehensive eye exam.

“Infants should get a comprehensive eye exam between six and 12 months of age,” Quelly said. “School-age children should receive a comprehensive eye exam annually, ideally before the start of the school year.”

72nd ABW’s Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center Occupational Safety Manager Steve Serrette agrees.

“It is so important to provide your child with the best opportunities available for a successful school year,” Serrette said. “So along with your child’s scheduled pediatric visits and immunizations, be sure to include a comprehensive eye exam.”

He said if a child indicates he or she has vision problems through their behavior, an eye exam can result in catching potential vision problems early. Indicators may include:

Squinting or turning his/her head unusually while watching television

Constantly watering or tearing eyes

Swollen eyelids or bloodshot eyes

Wandering or crossed eyes

A family history of childhood vision-related problems

Complaints of blurry vision; itchy or burning eyes

Dizziness or illness after doing close-up vision-related activity

Avoiding up-close work

Squinting or frowning

Headaches

Lack of interest in reading or looking at distant objects

Excessive blinking

Children may also make statements that indicate vision problems. Some of these can include:

My eyes are blurry. My eyes feel scratchy. My eyes are burning. I can’t see very well. Things look double.

The most common vision problems found include amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes), color blindness or refractive errors.

Quelly said most child-related eye injuries occur at home from sports activities or by chemical or household products.

“Most injuries are preventable with the use of appropriate protective eye wear,” she said. “For example, mowing the lawn should include the use of safety glasses, while swimming should include the use of swim goggles. Wearing 100 percent ultraviolet-radiation rated sunglasses can also help to protect eyes from potential sun damage.”

Serrette said parents and caretakers should teach their child the importance of wearing protective eyewear and make their use mandatory during any recreational or sporting events. They should also not allow children to play with toys with sharp or protruding edges.

“Approximately 12 million children suffer from some kind of vision impairment or eye injuries, with 42,000 related to sports injuries,” he said.

Quelly said a child’s first instinct when they get an eye injury is to rub or touch their eye, but doing so may make matters worse, so parents and caretakers should immediately take their child to see a trusted eye care professional.

“Have the child remain calm and flush the eye out with water or an eye-wash solution and seek medical care at the nearest emergency room or urgent care,” she said.

Serrette said digital eye strain can be caused by computers, smartphones and tablets. Symptoms include eye irritation, headaches, fatigue, red eyes and difficulty reading small print.

“Managing the use of such electrical devices can help to prevent digital eye strain,” he said.

“The American Optometric Association recommends two hours or less of tech time for preschoolers and kindergarteners. Older children should also take frequent breaks.”

For every 20 minutes of digital device use, parents and children should take 20 seconds to look away a distance of 20 feet.

“Don‘t forget to blink because eyes can also dry out when focused for a long period of time,” Serrette said.

Active duty members at  Tinker AFB can receive optometry services on base at the main clinic located within the 72nd Medical Group. For information on locations for pediatric eye exams, parents can ask their pediatrician or find a provider at humanamilitary.com.” 

Safety eyewear is fitted and dispensed to civilian and military employees at the Occupational Vision Clinic in Bldg. 3334 in Room 122.. For more information, call 734-2582. For more information, visit https://www.tinker.af.mil/Units/72nd-Medical-Group/Optometry.