Having children always comes with some uncertainty, especially if you're a first-time parent. There isn't exactly a manual for this! You just want the best for your child, and part of that includes their eye health.
A very common question we hear from new parents is "When should I take my child to the eye doctor for the first time?"
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that children have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age. Following that, they should then have their eyes examined at age 3 and again just before they enter the first grade, around age 5 or 6.
Why is the first eye exam so important?
Early childhood eye exams are essential to ensure normal visual development and to confirm there are no vision problems that might affect their academic performance when a child reaches school age.
What to expect at your child's first appointment:
To set yourself up for a seamless visit, make sure you have your insurance card and any questions you may have prepared. You and your child will be together during the entire process!
Most exams will start with a few straightforward tests to examine your child's:
- Visual acuity at all distances
- Accurate and comfortable eye teaming skills
- Accurate eye movement skills
- Accurate and comfortable focusing skills
They will test this by asking your child to follow lights and objects as well as identify pictures and letters. These tests will vary based on your child's unique developmental needs and could take up to 20-30 minutes.
After pre-testing, your ophthalmologist may need to dilate your child's eyes to have a better view of their eyes during their examination. If that's the case, this is nothing to be nervous about. Dilation drops are painless for children and, at most, may feel like saltwater going into the eye which is a feeling that goes away after the first 10-15 seconds.
After 30-40 minutes, the dilation drops will take effect and your doctor will call you back for the final portion of your visit. They will then recheck your child's eye with lights and other instruments.
Depending on the instructions your care team gives you at the end of your visit, you may need to schedule a follow-up appointment.