Do you need antibiotics if your child has an eye infection? Is too much screen time damaging his eyes? Are sunglasses for kids really necessary? Will your child’s lazy eye correct itself?
Experts from the Alabama Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Medical Association of Alabama, debunk common misunderstandings about children’s eye health.
Myth: You have to get antibiotics to clear pink eye
Truth: Contrary to popular opinion, antibiotics are rarely necessary to treat pink eye. There are three types of pink eye: viral, bacterial and allergic conjunctivitis. Most cases are caused by viral infections or allergies and don’t respond to antibiotics. Antibiotics can be prescribed for bacterial conjunctivitis, but it will depend on the severity of the infection. Mild cases of bacterial conjunctivitis usually clear on their own within 7-14 days without treatment.
Myth: The sun is bad for children’s eyes
Truth: While it’s true that long-term exposure to the sun without proper protection can increase the risk of eye disease, some studies suggest sun exposure is necessary for normal visual development. Kids who have less sun exposure seem to be at a higher risk for developing myopia or near-sightedness. But just to be on the safe side, you can make sure they’re protected by encouraging them to wear UV-blocking sunglasses and sunscreen when they’re outdoors.
Myth: Blue light from screens will damage your child’s vision
Truth: Contrary to what you may have read on the internet, blue light is not blinding you or your screen-obsessed kids. While it’s true that near-sightedness is becoming more common, blue light isn’t the culprit. In fact, we are exposed to much more blue light naturally from the sun than we are from our screens. What is important, is to make sure your child takes frequent breaks.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a 20-20-20 rule: look at an object at least 6 metres away every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds.
Myth: Children can’t lose their vision – it only happens when you’re older
Truth: The eyes of a child with a lazy eye may look normal, but this eye condition can steal sight if not treated. Amblyopia (or a lazy eye) is when vision in one of the child’s eyes is reduced because the eye and brain are not working together properly. Strabismus (crossed eyes) is another eye condition that can cause vision loss in a child. Strabismus is when the eyes do not line up in the same direction when focusing on an object.
Myth: All far-sighted kids need to wear glasses
Truth: Most kids are far-sighted early in life. It’s actually normal. It doesn’t necessarily mean your child needs prescription glasses because they use their focusing muscles to provide clear vision for both distance and near vision. Children do need glasses when their far-sightedness blurs their vision or leads to crossed eyes. They will also need glasses if they are significantly more far-sighted in one eye compared with the other, a condition that puts them at risk of developing a lazy eye.
Myth: There is no difference between a vision screening and a vision exam
Truth: While it’s true that your child’s eyes should be checked regularly, a less invasive vision screening by an optometrist, orthoptist or another person trained in vision assessment of preschool children, is fine for most children. If the screening detects a problem, your child will be referred to an ophthalmologist or other eye care professional.
Editor of Living and Loving. She is responsible for developing the brand’s overall content and business strategy.
She has worked on various newspapers and magazines as a journalist and editor over the years. Passionate about health and wellbeing, she has won several respected industry awards for writing and editing. She’s featured on radio and television as a health and parenting expert numerous times and has judged the Pfizer Mental Health Journalism Awards on three occasions.
Outside of work, she enjoys trying out recipes, reading crime mysteries and thrillers, practicing yoga, and exploring new destinations.
Learn more about Sonya Naudé.