Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter is urging parents to schedule an eye exam for their child as summer winds down and preparations begin for the new school year. Good vision is key to a child’s physical development, school success, and well-being. As children grow and change from year to year, so do their eyes and vision.

Suffolk County this year designated August as, “Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month.” The initiative came at the request of eight-year old Caitlyn Michaels, who was diagnosed with a rare eye disease and wanted to raise awareness about children’s eye health in her community. The Suffolk County Legislature passed unanimously a resolution which was signed into law by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in April 2019, designating August as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month.

“I urge parents to take the opportunity in August to have their child’s eyes examined before school and sports activities begin this fall. Detecting a change in a child’s eyesight now can make a difference in their future,” said Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter.

Babies, children and teenagers have different eye health needs than adults. Some problems that can be treated in babies and young children become irreversible when a child is older. Once a child’s best eyesight is established, it’s important to protect their sight from injury and bad habits.

In babies and young children, the vision system is not fully formed. They require equal input from both eyes in order for the brain’s vision centers to develop normally. If a child’s eyes cannot send clear images to the brain, his or her vision may become limited in ways that cannot be corrected later in life. But if problems are detected early, it is usually possible to treat them effectively.

It is essential to check children’s vision when they are first born and again during infancy, preschool and school years. Screening can be performed by a pediatrician, family physician or other properly trained health care provider. It is also often offered at schools, community health centers or community events. Upon entering school, or whenever a problem is suspected, children’s eyes should be screened for visual acuity and alignment. Nearsightedness (myopia) is the most common refractive error in this age group and can be corrected with eyeglasses. If an alignment problem or other eye health issues is suspected, the child should have a comprehensive exam by an ophthalmologist.

When children participate in sports, recreation, crafts or home projects, it’s important for them to know eye safety practices and use protective glasses as appropriate. Each year thousands of children sustain eye damage or even blindness from accidents at home, at play or in the car. More than 90% of all eye injuries can be prevented through use of suitable protective eyewear.

Sports deserve particular attention since eye injuries occur fairly often in children and young adult athletes: between the ages of five and 14, most sports-related injuries in the U.S. occur while playing baseball.