There are so many things to keep track of when you have young kids. Sometimes in the chaos of family life, eye and dental appointments can get forgotten. As an RN working with families I often get asked about when the best time to take their kids in for their first exams. Even when you have no active concerns with your child’s eyesight that does not mean there are issues that need to be monitored.
According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, babies should have their first eye exam when they are between 6-9 months old. These visits are to rule out serious health issues or treatable vision conditions. Initial appointments are usually quick with an Optometrist who uses their equipment and knowledge to physically examine the child’s eyes for structural defects or rare childhood cancer. Dr. Lauren Koch, of Shuswap Optometric Centre in Salmon Arm B.C., sees babies and young kids on a regular basis. “I try to tailor these early exams to the child’s and parent’s needs that day. I’ve done exams on babies in car seats, strollers or being held by parents” Dr. Koch states. “Most Optometrists are willing to work with families to ensure the exam goes as smoothly as possible.”
Some parents may be concerned about the cost of optometric care. However, in British Columbia eye exams are mostly covered by our provincial health care for children 18 years old and under on an annual basis. There may be a nominal office fee for the exam and the cost of glasses if required would be out of pocket. Most extended benefit plans include vision care.
After the initial appointment, if there are no concerns, kids should be seen by an Optometrist once between ages 2-5 then annually when they start school. Additional exams should be considered if your child complains of headaches, blurry vision, trouble reading or you suspect an eye infection.
Although we all know how busy life with kids can be, making time for these preventative checks can be imperative to your child’s health and learning. “Several health conditions can be diagnosed through the eyes and the sooner treatment is started the better the outcome. Considering that 80% of what children learn is visual, regular eye exams are an important part of their overall health” says Dr. Koch.
If you need help with more information on pregnancy, sleep, or baby reach out to a Mama Coach in your area so they can help!