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On Tuesday, September 7, 2021, St Edmunds Eye Hospital had the first-ever live chat with the Consultant Ophthalmologist and Medical Director, Dr Ayo Harriman on the hospital’s Instagram handle. The topic was: Protecting children’s eyes during COVID and the new school session.

Some questions she answered have been curated below.

Q: At what age should a child test their eyes?

Children’s eyes can be tested from when they are born, but most especially when they are about to start school. This is because some of them might have been accommodating and overcoming the error they have while in the home environment. So, it is best to know that they can see well before they start school.

From birth, it is good to know that a child is born with normal eyes so the paediatrician must look into the child’s eyes when they are born. If a mother notices that a child is not looking at her after four weeks while breastfeeding, then she should have the child’s eyes checked. If the child is developing normally but isn’t crawling, or is slow to walk, then the parent should have the child’s eyes checked. So children can have their eyes checked at any time, but most especially when they are about to start school. That’s the best time to test them.

Q: What is the challenge you have noticed with protecting children’s eyes in recent times?

We find that many children play with small gadgets. I remember that when we were growing up, we played outside a lot. Many children don’t play outside now, they play indoors on computers. So, you find a child always looking down with their iPad or the parents’ phones. And the new trend now is that these children become short-sighted. This means they can only see things at a short distance. By the time they start school, they cannot see the board from where they sit. So, we should encourage our children to play outdoors. They should not spend so many hours on gadgets.

Q: How can we keep the children safe in school?

When they start school, we should train them early to be careful about throwing things like stones or sand at each other. If we can train them to stop that, then when they get to school they won’t throw things at other children as this can cause injury, damage or loss of vision. So, we should teach children in school to be careful and not fight and punch or go for the eyes.

Teachers should be trained to note children who are not doing well as they probably cannot see clearly. There are stories of children who are so short-sighted that they stay in their shells and do not appear to do well in school. Most times, this is because they cannot see well. If a child rubs the eyes a lot, the children should have their eyes checked.

 

Next week, more answers will be posted. If you have any eye questions, send them to our Instagram handle @stedmundseyehospital or to our dedicated WhatsApp line (+234 912 767 8735) and they will be treated in one of our future sessions.