Protecting Your Child's Eyes and Sight

Last Editorial Review: 6/21/2005
The Cleveland Clinic

There are many things you can do to keep your child's eyes healthy and seeing clearly from birth through the teen years.

How Can I Help My Child Develop Good Eyesight?

  • Place toys within focus of your baby"s eyes, only 8-12 inches away.
  • Encourage your baby to crawl. This helps develop eye-hand coordination.
  • Talk to baby as you move around the room to encourage his or her eyes to follow you.
  • Hang a mobile above or outside of your baby's crib.
  • Give your baby toys to hold and look at.

Make sure your baby is following moving objects with his or her eyes and developing eye-hand coordination. If he or she seems delayed, talk to your child's doctor.

As your baby grows into an active child, continue to encourage good eyesight by providing visually stimulating toys that will improve motor and eye-hand coordination skills. Some good examples are:

  • Building or linking blocks
  • Puzzles
  • Stringing beads
  • Pegboards
  • Drawing tools like pencils, chalk, crayons, and markers
  • Finger paints
  • Modeling clay
What Can I Do to Protect My Child's Sight?
  • Eat right both during pregnancy and after. Your baby will be healthier and you will set a good example.
  • Provide nutritious, well-balance meals for your child that include 400 mcg of vitamin A for children from birth to three years, 500mcg of vitamin A for children from four to six years, and 700-800 mcg of vitamin A for children seven to ten years.
  • Provide your child with age-appropriate toys that are free from sharp edges.
  • Give your child toys that encourage visual development.
  • Provide sun protection for you child when outdoors by means of shelter or UV coated lenses, especially if your child's eyes are light in color.
  • Encourage your child to wear the proper protective athletic gear when playing sports.
  • Get your child's eyes examined by an eye doctor regularly.

How Often Should My Child's Eyes be Checked?

There are no strict guidelines. However, a detailed examination by an ophthalmologist, preferably a pediatric ophthalmologist, in the first year of life and another one between the ages of 3 and 4 is recommended. Additional exams are administered if screenings at the pediatrician show any ocular misalignment or visual difficulties. Children with siblings or close relatives with significant eye problems should be examined early and repeatedly by a pediatric ophthalmologist.

What Should I Do in an Emergency?

Here are four first aid tips for eye injuries:

  1. If your child spills something in his or her eye and you don't know what it is, or if there is alkaline in it - most household products will so indicate alkaline on the label - flush your child's eye for at least 20 minutes and have someone call for medical help or the local poison control center. Do not stop flushing your child's eye until medical help arrives unless instructed otherwise.
  2. If your child is hit in the eye with a blunt object, examine the eye closely. If you see bleeding, or cannot open the child's eyelids or observe his or her pupils, you should seek immediate medical attention.
  3. If your child continues to be in pain, constantly rubs his or her injured eye or complains of blurry or double vision, call the doctor. In the meantime, cover your child's injured eye with a cold pack for 15 minutes every hour or so. If you are using an ice pack, wrap it in a moistened cloth so the eye does not become damaged from freezing.
  4. If you child's eye is injured with a sharp object, cover the eye with a shield (the cut out bottom of foam cup would do) as you would above and seek immediate medical attention. DO NOT press on the eyelids. If the sharp object is still in the child's eye DO NOT remove it. Instead cover the eye and call 9-1-1.

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute.

Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, WebMD, November 2004.

Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005


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