Healthy Vision: 5 Tips for Children’s Eye Health
Healthy eyes and vision are an important part of kids’ development, so it’s crucial to take care of children’s eyes, just as you do the rest of the body. Luckily, there are several ways to address eye health – from diet to regular eye checkups – to ensure your child’s vision is as crisp and sharp as it can be. Here are 5 tips to promote children’s eye health:
1. Eat an Eye-Healthy Diet
Nutrition is an excellent way to promote children’s eye health and set kids up for healthy habits to last a lifetime. While kids’ eyes are still developing, they require proper nutrition for optimal vision. Parents can help by making eye-healthy foods a regular part of their diet, specifically, foods that are high in nutrients like zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, and omega-3 fatty acids, such as:
- Leafy, green vegetables: spinach and kale
- Oily fish: tuna, salmon, and mackerel
- Citrus fruits and Berries: oranges, lemons, blueberries
- Vegetables: carrots, broccoli, and beets
- Seafood and meat: oysters and pork
- Protein (non-meat options): beans, nuts, seeds, and eggs
Eating a healthy diet has numerous health benefits, but getting the proper nutrition for children’s eye health helps protect a child’s eyes from damage. Protein helps strengthen developing tissues, and vitamins like C and E help to repair tissues and offer immune support to prevent infections.
2. Get Adequate Sleep
Getting adequate sleep rejuvenates the whole body, including the eyes. Establishing a regular sleep routine to get adequate rest promotes children’s eye health.
10 Sleep Hygiene Tips For Children (Video)
10 Commandments of Sleep Hygiene for Children (Ages 0-12)
*Source: World Sleep Day
- Go to bed at the same time every night, preferably before 9:00 pm.
- Have an age-appropriate nap schedule.
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine.
- Make your child’s bedroom sleep-conducive – cool, dark, and quiet.
- Encourage your child to fall asleep independently.
- Avoid bright light at bedtime and during the night, and increase light exposure in the morning.
- Avoid heavy meals and vigorous exercise close to bedtime.
- Keep all electronics, including televisions, computers, and cell phones, out of the bedroom and limit the use of electronics before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine, including many sodas, coffee, and teas (as well as iced tea).
- Keep a regular daily schedule, including consistent mealtimes.
3. Get Outside
Kids are naturally drawn to playing outdoors, and outdoor play has numerous benefits, including children’s eye health.
Research indicates that spending time outdoors benefits children’s health and helps avoid eye problems like myopia.
Participating in outdoor activities can also stimulate a child’s senses and assist them to develop normally. Like exercise for the body, being outdoors provides natural exercise for the eyes.
UV Protection Tip: Protecting a child’s eyes from the sun is extremely important for eye health in children. Wearing sunglasses (recommended to absorb 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays) is an excellent way to care for the eyes outdoors.
4. Limit Screen Time
Modern technology and the use of computers, tablets, and cell phones have added a lot of screen time to children’s daily lives. Excessive screen time, particularly at night, can cause strain and damage to kids’ eyes. Negative effects of excessive screen time can include:
- Focus issues
- Blurry vision
- Dry and irritated eyes
- Trouble sleeping
To avoid these problems, you can take the following tips:
- Limit screen time, especially at night and prior to bed.
- Try an anti-glare screen.
- Educate children on the importance of giving the eyes a break from screen time.
- Encourage kids to participate in exercise and physical activities if they are overly engaged in screen time.
American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations for Children’s Media Use:
*Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
- For children younger than 18 months, avoid the use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
- For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
- Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
- Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
5. Regular Eye Checkups
When a child is experiencing eye issues, it’s important to know that not all eye conditions have noticeable symptoms. Keeping regular visits to your ophthalmologist can help detect issues early, address and treat any eye health problems, and keep children’s vision healthy.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises parents to seek a comprehensive eye exam if:
- A child fails a vision screening.
- Vision screening is inconclusive or cannot be performed.
- Referred by a pediatrician or school nurse.
- A child has a vision complaint or observed abnormal visual behavior, or is at risk for developing eye problems. Children with medical conditions (e.g., Down syndrome, prematurity, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, neurofibromatosis) or a family history of amblyopia, strabismus, retinoblastoma, congenital cataracts or congenital glaucoma are at higher risk for developing pediatric eye problems.
- A child has a learning disability, developmental delay, neuropsychological condition or behavioral issue.
*Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology
Children’s eye health is an important part of overall health and development. Using the eye health suggestions above, along with your doctor’s recommendations will go a long way to making sure your child’s eyes are protected.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR FAMILIES IMPACTED BY CHILDHOOD CHRONIC ILLNESS
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