Hesperian Health Guides

Prevention of Vision Loss in Children

In this chapter:

The best way to prevent visual impairment is to try to keep children well fed, clean, and healthy. During pregnancy, mothers also need to eat enough nutritious foods and to avoid medicines that might injure the baby. For more information, see a book like Helping Children Who Are Blind or contact the groups in Other Resources.

In brief, steps to prevent vision loss in children include:

  • When pregnant, keep away from persons with German measles and other infectious diseases, avoid unsafe medicines, and try to get enough to eat.
  • Protect the eyes of all newborn babies with erythromycin or tetracycline eye ointment at birth (see "Causes of Loss of Vision").
  • Vaccinate children against all the infectious diseases you can.
  • Breastfeed the baby, and continue to breastfeed as long as possible.
  • Good nutrition for mother and child—especially foods rich in vitamin A. Children often get diarrhea and then “dry eyes” after they are taken off the breast. So, when the baby starts to eat other foods, give him mashed papaya, mashed cassava leaves, or other foods with vitamin A, every day.
  • Keep the home and child clean. Build and use latrines, and keep them covered. Try to protect against flies. Wash hands with soap and water, especially before eating and after using the latrine (toilet).
  • Keep the child’s eyes clean. When they get infected or have pus, clean them often with a clean cloth that is wet with clean water, and see a health worker.
  • Give children with measles vitamin A rich foods (or vitamin A capsules, see "Causes of Loss of Vision") because danger of “dry eyes” increases with measles.
  • Treat all persons with signs of trachoma early. For treatment of different eye conditions, see a health worker or get information from a book like Where There Is No Doctor.
  • Keep sharp and pointed objects, bullets, explosives, acids, and lye away from children and teach them about their dangers. Warn them about the danger of throwing closed bottles, cans, or bullets into the fire. Also warn them about local plants that can injure the eyes. (For example, the juice of “hiza,” a poisonous fig tree in Mexico, can burn the eyes like lye.) Get good early treatment for any eye injury.
  • Warn children about throwing rocks and sticks, or shooting slingshots toward other persons.
  • Check babies and children for early signs of eye conditions or difficulty seeing. Test how well they can see at 2 months of age and before they begin school.
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  • Organize children to test the sight of their younger brothers and sisters (see "CHILD-to-child activity").
  • Help everybody understand that most vision loss in children can be prevented. Teach people what they can do.
  • See precautions to protect the eyes of persons who have a loss of feeling in their eyes.

This page was updated:04 Apr 2024