Which children should be tested?

You should make sure your child has a full eye examination if:

  • they have special needs – children with special needs often have eye problems
  • there is a history of squint or lazy eye in their family
  • people in the family needed to wear glasses when they were young children.

Signs to look out for:

  • one eye turns in or out – this may be easier to spot when the child is tired
  • they rub their eyes a lot (except when they are tired, this is normal)
  • they have watery eyes
  • they are clumsy or have poor hand and eye co-ordination
  • your child avoids reading, writing or drawing
  • they screw up their eyes or frown when they read or watch TV
  • they sit very close to the TV, or hold books or objects close to their face
  • they have behaviour or concentration problems at school
  • they don’t do as well as they should at school
  • they complain about blurred or double vision, or they have unexplained headaches.

Simple treatments like wearing glasses or wearing a patch for a while could be all that your child needs. The earlier that eye problems are picked up, the better the outcome will be.

Flash Photographs

If flash photographs of your child show a white colour in their pupil, or red eye in only one eye, not both, when they are looking straight at the camera, you should ask your optometrist for more information. These could be signs of a very rare but serious condition.

Eye tests for children

The NHS pays for sight tests for children under 16 years of age, and those aged 16 to 18 in full-time education. If your child needs glasses, the NHS will give you a voucher, which may cover the full cost of glasses, or you can put it towards the cost if you want more expensive glasses. You can take the voucher to any dispensing optician (person who sells prescription glasses).

Children under 16 can only have their glasses dispensed by a registered optometrist, dispensing optician, or a doctor. You can check if your optometrist or dispensing optician is registered with the General Optical Council.