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HealthInfo Canterbury

Eye examinations for children

If your child's B4 School Check raises concerns about their vision, the nurse will offer to refer you to the Eye department at the public hospital. If you chose this option, you'll be sent an appointment for an eye examination.

Instead, you may choose to see a private optometrist or ophthalmologist. See these lists of optometrists who are happy to see children under 5 and children between 5 and 10. You may need to pay to see an optometrist unless you have a Community Services Card. You will need to pay to see an ophthalmologist. You'll need to make the appointment yourself.

If you want your child to see an optometrist because you have concerns yourself or their preschool or school has raised concerns, you can find one through the New Zealand Association of Optometrists. When you make an appointment, ask if the optometrist is happy to see young children.

There are several things to think about when planning and preparing for your child's eye examination.

Before the eye examination

When scheduling your child’s eye examination, choose a time when they're usually alert and happy.

It's important that you or another caregiver attends the eye examination with your child. This is so you can:

Your child will need to concentrate during the eye examination. If any other children are in the room, please make sure they don't distract them.

If you've received a vision screening form from your child's preschool or school, take it with you to the appointment.

If your child already has glasses or contact lenses, take them to the examination.

If you or your child hold a current Community Services Card or High Use Health Card, take the card to the appointment. This is because the examination cost, glasses and in some cases contact lenses, may be fully or partly covered by a government subsidy. If you think you're eligible for the subsidy, make sure you go to an optometrist or ophthalmologist who is registered with Enable New Zealand.

During the eye examination

The optometrist will perform several tests to examine your child’s vision and eye health. These will include checking if they need glasses or if their glasses prescription needs changing.

Most eye examinations will take between 20 and 45 minutes. You may want to allow extra time after the appointment to choose glasses frames if they're needed.

Some children need special eye drops called cycloplegic drops. The drops take around 30 minutes to work and might sting slightly. The drops temporarily make the pupils larger. Your child may have blurred vision or be sensitive to light for a few hours after the test.

The optometrist will review the findings and give you a treatment plan for your child. This may include glasses, contact lenses, eye exercises, scheduling a review or a referral to an ophthalmologist.

Questions to ask before your appointment

Questions to ask during your appointment

Written by Canterbury DHB ophthalmologists and optometrists. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created July 2020.

Page reference: 757482

Review key: HIVIP-134077