Eye Health Challenges for Kids During COVID-19

August is almost upon us and it is time to start thinking about Back-to-School and eye health. Whether your children will be attending traditional classes this fall or opting for in-home learning, an eye exam should still be on your checklist this month! According to the American Optometric Association, “A comprehensive eye examination is as essential for back-to-school success as supplies for learning ” (read more from AOA here).

New Issues for the Eyes During the Pandemic

Students returning to school in an online or hybrid setting face prolonged digital device use as a problem. Data suggest most children say they’re in front of a digital screen twice as much as before COVID-19 closures. Prolonged viewing of digital screens often makes the eyes work harder. As a result, these unique characteristics and high visual demands make many individuals susceptible to the development of vision-related problems.

Students returning to in-person classroom settings also could encounter unique eye health challenges, especially related to SARS-CoV-2-the virus causing COVID-19-transmissibility through the eyes. especially important also that students understand the importance of adhering to good eye health hygiene and are appropriately seeking care when issues do arise, such as red or pink eyes.

Vision Screenings

Many parents rely on vision screenings to detect problems with their child’s vision, but these screenings are not a replacement for a comprehensive eye exam.

A few key things to note:

  • Vision screening programs at schools only help identify children with eye or vision problems. They give parents a false sense of security as they only indicate a potential need for further evaluation.
  • Even the most sophisticated vision screening tools miss one-third of children with eye or vision disorders
  • Screen time at school and home can expose a student 8-18 years of age to media for more than 10 hours a day. This can lead to a number of visual challenges-some of which children may not necessarily even realize.

When Do Children Need Eye Exams?

The AOA recommends the following for frequency of pediatric eye exams :

  • 3-5 years old: children should be examined at least once.
  • 6-18 years old: children should be examined before first grade and annually thereafter.

To read more about pediatric eye health during COVID-19, see AOA’s latest blog post here.