How to Protect Your Children’s Eyes. | Children's eye care

How to Protect Your Children’s Eyes

As humans it can seem like there is a lot to keep track of in order to maintain good health. A lot of the information surrounding how to take care of ourselves often comes from parental figures in our lives. But when you become a parent yourself it can be daunting to know where to begin. These small humans that seem so fragile are relying on your guidance and protection. But how can you protect your children’s eyes?

How to protect children’s eyes

Why is protecting your children’s eyes important from a young age?

From birth to maturity, and especially during early infancy, your child’s vision changes drastically. From gaining control over focusing power in their eyes, to being able to interpret more varied shades of colours, these are substantial changes that are important to your child’s vision. While these changes are part of the natural growth and developmental process of eyes, there are behaviours that you can encourage within your child to aid in their development.

Not only could these eye health focused lifestyle changes aid in your child’s development, but they could also help to protect your child from eye disease later in life.

Habit formation from childhood

As humans we are strongly influenced by those around us and in particular our parental figures and the adults whom we seek guidance from. Whenever we see a shift in someone’s behaviour, we have a tendency to perhaps attribute said change to a change in their environment or social circles. Whether someone is picking up colloquial language to “fit in with the crowd” or trying a new hairstyle, this recognition of the impact our peers have on us while flippant in these remarks, has scientific truth to it.

This concept is notable in a study [1], where they investigate the human capacity to learn by imitation, and the link between the behavioural evidence of this “mimicking” and the mirror-neuron system present in humans. This system refers to the neurological chemistry present when someone watches a counterpart perform an action and the neurological chemistry when the viewer performs the action themselves. During both watching someone else carry out the task, and performing the task themselves, the same neurons are fired within the subject. So when reading the following advice, bear in mind that following it yourself will set the example to your child, and encourage imitation and healthier habits for everyone involved.

Monitoring screen time

There are many myths about screens making you go “square eyed”, and while this is exactly that, a myth, there is some truth to it. While you won’t wake up with squares for eyes, the screens on our electronic devices are having an impact on our vision. Technology has quickly become a heavy staple of day-to-day modern life, and along with this addition to human society scientists have queried what kind of effect these screens might be having on us. Research has connected increased near work (including device use) during childhood to increased levels of myopia [2].

Myopia (nearsightedness) is a form of visual impairment where near objects appear clear and far objects appear blurry. In fact, children with higher levels of device use, up to 8 hours per day, are up to 3 times more likely to develop myopia [3]. So, you can protect your child’s vision by being more conscientious about the amount of uninterrupted screen time they are experiencing. An app built to help with just that, is planoApp, which has built in features that allow you to allocate device free times as well as encouraging healthier interactions between your child and their devices.

How to protect children’s eyes

Time outside and UV protection

In a study conducted [4], they investigated the relationship between myopia and levels of outdoor activity within 1249 Singaporean children. 70% of their participants had myopia and their results showed that these participants overall were engaging in significantly decreased amounts of outdoor activity compared to the participants without myopia. This link indicates that children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to have myopia.

However, while the lifestyle answer to this is to encourage your children to spend more time outside, there are additional protective measures that you should be considering under these conditions.

Protection against ultraviolet rays

Ultraviolet (UV) rays are emitted by the sun and contain radiation that is harmful to humans. When exposed to this radiation, our skin and the cells on the surface of our eyes become damaged and some cells even die. This can lead to conditions like photokeratitis, essentially sunburn of the eyes. Long-term exposure to UV rays over several years can put you at an increased risk of developing eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration later in life [5]. To protect your children from the long-term effects of sun damage you can encourage them to wear sunglasses.

Healthy diet

There is some evidence to suggest that certain nutrients, acquired by eating foods like blueberries, cherries and red cabbage, can help protect your vision. These foods are rich in anthocyanins which are antioxidants and strengthen the collagen in your body [6]. Antioxidants are substances that prevent or slow the damage to cells that free radicals cause. Free radicals are single oxygen atoms with unpaired electrons that try to take other electrons, from other cells, to become pairs, damaging these cells in the process. By strengthening the collagen in your eyes, it helps to maintain the structure of the eye, thereby creating a healthier eye that might be more resistant to the impacts of aging.

References

[1] Giacomo Rizzolatti, Laila Craighero. The Mirror-Neuron System. Annual Review of Neuroscience, Vol 27, page 169-192. 2004.

[2] BA Holden, TR Fricke, DA Wilson et al. Global Prevalence of Myopia and High Myopia and Temporal Trends from 2000 Through 2050. Ophthalmology 123, pages 1036-1042. 2016.

[3] KA Rose, IG Morgan, J Ip et al. Outdoor Activity Reduces the Prevalence Myopia in Children. Ophthalmology, Vol 115, page 1279-1285. 2008.

[4] M Dirani, L Tong, G Gazzard, X Zhang, A Chia, T L Young, K A Rose, P Mitchell, S-M Saw. Outdoor Activity and Myopia in Singapore Teenage Children. British Journal of Ophthalmology, Vol 93, Issue 8, page 997-1000. 2008.

[5] Richard W Young. Sunlight and Age-Related Eye Disease. Journal of National Medical Association. 1992.

[6] Johanna Seddon, M.D., Jennifer Thompson, (2015). Eat Right for Your Sight: Simple, Tasty Recipes that Help Reduce the Risk of Vision Loss from Macular Degeneration, American Macular Degeneration Foundation.

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