Don't Let COVID-19 Prevent Your Children From Getting Their Eyes Checked!
Vision screenings for young children usually take place during wellness visits to the pediatrician. But with wellness visits declining during the coronavirus pandemic, many children’s eyes may go unchecked. This could delay the diagnosis and treatment of childhood eye conditions, particularly for children from disadvantaged households, who were already prone to missing vision screens before the pandemic. “A well-child visit to the pediatrician accomplishes the vision screening and so much more, from assessing physical, developmental and social-emotional health to providing protection through immunization. It’s imperative that parents don’t skip these appointments, even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says ophthalmologist Aaron M. Miller, MD. If you are visiting your ophthalmologist’s office for routine eye care or for an urgent need, you may feel nervous about venturing out during the COVID-19. Rest assured that ophthalmologists, like all medical professionals, follow strict hygiene and disinfection guidelines.
When to have an eye exam
Several factors may determine how frequently you need an eye exam, including your age, health and risk of developing eye problems. General guidelines are as follows:
Children 3 years and younger
For children under 3, your pediatrician will likely look for the most common eye problems, lazy eye, crossed eyes or misaligned eyes. If there are eye concerns or symptoms, an examination is appropriate at that time regardless of age. Your child could undergo a more comprehensive eye exam between the ages of 3 and 5.
School-age children and adolescents
Have your child's vision checked before he or she enters first grade. If your child has no symptoms of vision problems and no family history of vision problems, have his or her vision rechecked every one to two years. Otherwise, schedule eye exams based on the advice of your eye doctor.
Have your eyes checked more often if you:
- Wear glasses or contact lenses
- Have a family history of eye disease or loss of vision
- Have a chronic disease that puts you at greater risk of eye disease, such as diabetes
- Take medications that have serious eye side effects
Back-To-School is always the best time to get those check ups done, whether they return to in-person schooling or remote learning, they will still need to have the best vision possible to succeed in their work. Don't be afraid to call your family eye doctors and get more information and find out what their current policies are right now. Below are tips on how to protect everyone at the appointment and a way to remind your kids the eye doctors will look and dress different than before but it is all for their protection.
Expect changes to eye exams and procedures during the pandemic
- You should wear a mask to your appointment. If you do not have a mask, one may be provided for you.
- The clinic may ask you to wait outside, or in your car, instead of in the normal waiting room. This is to protect you, the other patients, and the office staff from possible virus exposure in crowded waiting areas.
- The clinic is likely restricting the number of people that enter. If you do not need someone to be there with you for the actual appointment, please do not bring anyone into the building with you.
- Your temperature may be checked on entry to the building.
- Your eye doctor may use a special plastic breath shield on the slit lamp machine they use to look into your eyes. They will also wear a mask, and may also wear gloves, goggles or a plastic shield over their eyes.
- Your doctor may ask you to wait to speak until after your eye exam is complete. Then they can talk with you and answer questions when they can be a safe distance from you.
You will be asked to follow certain precautions
- If you have a cough or a fever, or have been in close contact with someone who has these symptoms, you must call your doctor’s office ahead of time and let them know. If your visit is not an emergency, you may need to stay home.
- If you arrive sick, your doctor may ask you to return home. If you have a problem that cannot wait to be seen, you will be asked to wait in a special room away from other patients. The clinic staff and your physician may wear additional protective equipment, such as gowns and gloves.
- If you need to cough or sneeze during your exam, move back from the slit lamp microscope machine. Bury your face in the crook of your arm or cover your face with a tissue. Wash your hands with soap and water right away.