Back to school: how to recognize pink eye

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Summer break is coming to an end signaling the start of another school year. Your child will soon be immersed into the classroom sharing ideas, books, each other’s lunches and much more. One of the things that you definitely do not want your child to catch or to pass on to others is pink eye. Yes, pink eye!

What is pink eye, you might ask?

Pink eye is a highly contagious, viral infection that usually follows an upper respiratory infection. It can be spread by through direct contact with an infected individual. Similar to the flu, antibacterial medications are typically ineffective against a virus. Therefore, it typically takes a good two to three weeks for your body and eye to fight off the infection.

So how would your child feel if he or she were to develop a pink eye?

First and foremost, your child will complain about watering and irritation in one eye. He or she may experience a gritty, foreign-body like sensation. Some may feel feverish as well. One of the golden rules is that pink eye always starts in one eye and then goes on to involve the other eye.

So how do you tell if it’s pink eye?

One of the troubling things to an undiscriminating parent is how to distinguish a pink eye from a red eye due to a bacterial infection or allergies. Because these conditions can look quite similar, it is best to take your child to an optometrist for a definitive diagnosis. Better yet, keep your child healthy by eating right, getting adequate rest and washing or sanitizing his or her hands often.

~ Judy Tong, O.D., F.A.A.O.
California Optometric Association



Back to school – yearly eye exam

Photo courtesy of Patrick on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Patrick on Flickr

Backpack, pencils, paper, binders, new clothes … an eye exam? When you think about getting ready to start a new school year, I’m sure that an eye exam is not on most people’s back to school list, though it should be. It is estimated that 80 percent of all learning is done with our eyes. In today’s modern classroom, students use their eyes constantly to read from a board, view projected digital images, use computers and tablets, read and to participate in sports and other classroom activities. So give your children the tools they need to succeed in school by having annual eye exams with a doctor of optometry.

According to the American Optometric Association, your child needs much more than just good vision in order to “see” properly. Every child needs to have the following vision skills for effective reading and learning:

  • Visual acuity: the ability to see clearly at the distance for viewing the chalkboard, at an intermediate distance for the computer and up close for reading a book.
  • Eye Focusing: the ability to quickly and accurately maintain clear vision as the distance from objects change, such as when looking from the chalkboard to a paper on the desk and back. Eye focusing allows the child to easily maintain clear vision over time like when reading a book or writing a report.
  • Eye tracking: the ability to keep the eyes on target when looking from one object to another, moving the eyes along a printed page or following a moving object like a thrown ball.
  • Eye teaming: the ability to coordinate and use both eyes together when moving the eyes along a printed page, and to be able to judge distances and see depth for class work and sports.
  • Eye-hand coordination: the ability to use visual information to monitor and direct the hands when drawing a picture or trying to hit a ball.
  • Visual perception: the ability to organize images on a printed page into letters, words and ideas and to understand and remember what is read.

Why school screenings don’t cut it

Unfortunately, while children do receive vision screenings from their pediatrician or at school, most do not have a comprehensive eye exam. In published guidelines for vision screenings, the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends a vision screening to include:

Visual acuity by Snellen method (reading letters at a distance)

  • External (penlight) examination for surface abnormalities of the eye and surrounding tissues
  • Pupillary examination
  • Ocular motility and alignment (ocular movements, cover test and corneal reflections)
  • Ophthalmoscopy for red reflexes and examination of retina and optic nerve

As you can see, vision screenings do not examine needed visual skills. Even if a child passes a vision screening and can see 20/20, he or she can still have vision problems. Luckily, every child in the United States has the ability to receive a comprehensive eye exam. To emphasize the importance of vision care, the Affordable Care Act has required every health plan to provide pediatric eye exams as an essential benefit. In addition, the volunteer doctors of optometry of the InfantSee program provide a comprehensive infant eye assessment between 6 and 12 months of age as a no-cost public service. Give your child the tools to succeed in school. Have an annual comprehensive eye exam.

For more information: California Optometric Association at, American Optometric Association at and


~ Steven Sage Hider, OD
California Optometric Association

It’s just the FACTS: Vision & Learning Go Hand in Hand

August has been recognized as the Vision & Learning month.  It would seem appropriate since many children return to school in August or shortly thereafter.  In addition to getting new clothes and supplies for our kids, this yearly routine should spur us to take our children in for a comprehensive eye and vision examination.

Vision is a highly complex and intricate process.  So, it is not surprising that reading and learning is dependent on not only having excellent 20/20 vision, but also accurate eye movement, eye focusing, eye teaming, and visual motor skills.

It’s just the plain ole fact that there is a direct correlation between vision and learning.

Courtesy of woodleywonderworks on Flickr

Courtesy of woodleywonderworks on Flickr

Did you know that…

  • “25% of students in grades K-6 have visual problems that are serious enough to impede learning.” – American Public Health Association
  • Approximately “80% of children with a learning disability have an  undiagnosed vision problem.”– Vision Council of America
  • “1 in 4 children has an undiagnosed vision problem which can interfere with learning and lead to academic and/or behavioral problems.”  – College of Optometrists in Vision Development
  • Studies show that “children who had visual perceptual and eye movement difficulties did poorly on standardized tests.” – Dr. Lynn Hellerstein, FAAO, FCOVD, Past President of COVD
  • “When vision problems go undetected, children almost invariably have  trouble reading and doing their schoolwork.  They often a display fatigue, fidgeting and frustrations in the classroom – traits that can lead to a misdiagnosis of dyslexia or other learning disabilities.” – American Optometric Association
  • A “child with a vision based learning problem has excellent verbal skills, causing parent and educators to think the child must be lazy, have ADD/ADHD, or is learning disabled.”
    – College of Optometrists in Vision Development

A cursory vision screening is just not enough to detect vision-related learning difficulties.  Early prevention of a child’s vision problem is so important for school readiness, learning and academic success.  So make it an integral part of your child’s back-to-school preparations.  Buy school supplies, outfit your child with new clothes, and most important, take your child to see a doctor of optometry for a thorough eye and vision examination.

~Judy Tong, OD, FAAO

(Special thanks to my colleagues Drs. Carmen Barnhardt, Eric Borsting, Ray Chu, and Rebekah Louie.)