Optician reveals why parents MUST book eye test for their child before school starts

Preparing for a new school year can be a stressful task, from picking out the perfect pencil case to sizing the correct school uniform after a six week growth spurt.

But opticians have urged parents to book an eye appointment for their child before the new school year kicks in.

Shocking figures from Specsavers have revealed that children in the UK, aged between five to 16, spend an average of two to three hours per day watching television, one to three hours on the internet, one to two hours playing video games, and over an hour on mobile phones.

This is an average of 6.3 hours of screen time per day.

Due to the increased amount of time kids spent in front of a screen, doctors have noticed an increase in eye related health issues in children – including eye strain, myopia or short-sightedness.

Experts have warned that these issues can affect a child’s vision, concentration and performance.

Khuram Sarwar, optician at Feel Good Contacts, has advised parents to reduce a child’s screen time ahead of September.

He said: “Before school starts for the autumn term, it’s important to establish a good bedtime routine that doesn’t include screen time. Getting enough sleep is important for staying alert during the school day, so gradually start to limit screen time.

“The blue light emitted from screens causes digital eye strain, headaches and hampers sleep as it tricks your body into thinking it’s still daytime keeping you awake.

“Use the extra time you have with your child to talk, read, and do eye yoga together.”

Feel Good Contacts has created a guide for parents to look out for the following symptoms in their child to detect any eye health issues.

Difficulty reading
Children may read slower than usual, make numerous mistakes, skip words, or jumble the order of words whilst reading.

They may also hold the books closer or further from their face; these are usually signs of dyslexia.

Continuously squinting to see things
They may squint, try to see from the corners of their eyes, or tilt their head to help focus on an object.

It is common for children with eye health issues to avoid reading, especially if it is something from a distance.

White or greyish-white colour in the pupil
This may be a sign of cataracts, corneal ulcer, retinoblastoma (eye cancer in children) or uveitis.

These issues will often affect your child’s visibility.

Eyes that are misaligned
Misaligned eyes can include turning outwards or looking crossed – however the latter is common for a baby up to four months old as they are learning to control their eyes.

Crossed eyes are usually a sign of strabismus (misaligned eyes) or amblyopia (lazy eye).

These will affect the child’s visual acuity, particularly as the distance between objects and viewpoints change, for example, when doing sports and tracking a flying object.

Eyes that flutter quickly
Eyes that flutter from side to side or up and down will greatly affect a child’s hand-eye coordination.

This can lead to difficulty writing or playing sports.

They will also have trouble keeping their eyes on one target, for instance, moving their eyes from one object to another or along the page to read.

Eyes that are consistently watery, excrete puss, feel itchy or look red
These are common symptoms of eye infections, and are usually caused by irritating substances coming in contact with the eye.

A child may frequently rub their eyes to relieve this irritation.

Eyes that are sensitive to light
This could signal a health condition, including cataracts and epilepsy.

They may also frequently report that they have a headache.

Ali Mearza, ophthalmic consultant and co-founder of OCL Vision, added: “More often than not, your child may just need a pair of glasses to help them see clearer and reduce eye strain.

“If they’re short-sighted, then glasses will be required for clearer distance vision; if they’re long-sighted, then glasses will reduce strain when doing near work. “

Mearza explained: “If you spot any problems with your child’s eyes or vision, then you should visit an optician or GP to deal with the matter promptly before the condition exacerbates.

“The optician or GP will then refer you to a specialist paediatric ophthalmologist for further management as needed.”

According to the NHS, serious vision problems during childhood are rare, but routine checks can help to identify any problems early on.

Free NHS sight tests are also available at opticians for children under 16 and for young people under 19 in full-time education.