It is important to teach your children about eye health and safety from a young age.
This includes awareness about how your overall health habits affect your eyes and vision as well as how to keep your eyes safe from injury and infection.
Starting off with good eye habits at a young age will help to create a lifestyle that will promote eye and vision health for a lifetime.
Taking regular breaks after every 30-40 minutes of reading, writing, or playing the computer is recommended. Time spent on electronic devices such as tablets, mobile phones or handheld devices should be reduced too.
Invest in sun protection accessories such as sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection, or hats to shield your child from the sun’s damaging rays. For younger children, a hat or umbrella will be more ideal to avoid the risk of them poking their eyes with the sunglasses.
The onset and progression of myopia (short-sightedness) in kids can be prevented by spending more time outdoors (5). You may encourage children to play outside rather than indoor games or video games. Outdoor activities can be physically beneficial to children. These outdoor activities promote physical fitness as well as improve hand-eye coordination for your child.
Eating vegetables and fruits that are high in lutein and zeaxanthin have been found to protect eyes from free radical damage3. These nutrients can be found in foods such as kale, collard greens, spinach, brussels sprout, egg yolks, corn, avocado, pistachios, goji berries, orange peppers, kiwi, grapes, orange juice and zucchini. Eating fatty fish like salmon, herring and tuna is also beneficial to the development of the eyes.
Children tend to rub their eyes, especially if they have eye irritation or some foreign bodies in the eye. Rubbing may damage the eyes, and often, germs from hands can pass into the eyes and cause conditions such as conjunctivitis.
You may tell a child to wash their eyes with cold water to relieve irritation instead of rubbing. Parents should also teach children proper hand-hygiene techniques.
By teaching your children basic eye care and safety habits you are instilling in them the importance of taking care of their precious eye sight. As a parent, always encourage and remind your children to follow these tips and set a good example by doing them yourself.
Of course don’t forget the most important tip of all - get each member of your family's eyes checked regularly by a qualified eye doctor!
Remember, school eye screenings and screenings at a pediatrician’s office are NOT eye exams. They are only checking visual acuity but could miss health problems, focusing issues and binocularity issues that are causing health and vision problems.