Good eyesight is often not given enough attention, especially during a child's growing years. However, this is a crucial aspect, considering the overall wellness and health of the child. Inculcating good habits in eye care can go a long way in helping a child maintain good vision and eye care during their adult years.
These habits can be an effective method to increase awareness about the overall health habits that affect a child's eyes and vision and, at the same time, help them keep their eyes safe from injury and infection. We have put together four ways parents can teach their children to value and take care of their eyesight from a young age.
The value of a good diet can never be over-emphasized. Adding enough vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals to a diet can significantly help to improve vision and overall eye health. Certain nutrients and vitamins like Omega-3 Fatty Acids, vitamins A & C, and Zinc can help reduce the risk associated with eye conditions, including Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Cataracts. Some food items that parents must encourage their children to add to their diet include fish, Broccoli, nuts, legumes, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, and eggs. These items have valuable nutrients that can help prevent vision problems in growing adults and children.
Today, Diabetes affects young people, and lifestyle factors are one of the most significant risk factors for this disease. When a person has unhealthy lifestyle habits, including a poor diet and lack of exercise, Diabetes is one of the diseases that can easily affect them. Teaching children to stay physically active is extremely important as it will lead them to keep their bodies fit and teach them the value of regular exercise. Since Diabetes can damage the small blood vessels in the Retina, causing Diabetic Retinopathy, besides increasing the risk of Glaucoma, Cataracts, and other eye problems, it becomes essential to prevent this condition from affecting children and young adults. Playing outdoors, especially in some sunlight, will help to reduce the progress of Myopia. While playing outdoors, educate children about safety while playing e.g., avoid playing with sharp objects, splashing colors, and safety with firecrackers, etc., keep in mind we lose many precious eyes due to trauma at a young age!!
Since growing children are unaware of symptoms related to eye illness, parents must make them aware of the same. As children don't always complain about problems with vision, it is vital to notice signs of too much blinking, rubbing, unusual head tilts, or excessively close viewing distance problems in them, as these need to be tackled by an eye doctor. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry!
While it is impossible to completely get rid of digital technology from the lives of children, there is a growing need to restrict their time in front of screens, including laptops, tablets, or mobile phones. Whenever a child is using a digital device, teach them to use it properly, so they do not hold it very close to their eyes. To do this, you can teach them the Harmon distance, considered a comfortable viewing distance and posture. This is generally defined as the distance from the chin to the elbow. Further, when viewing anything on a digital screen, especially for long periods, follow the 20-20-20 rule; take a break every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, by looking at something 20 feet away.
While all the habits mentioned above are essential, don't forget the most important tip – every family member must get their eyes checked regularly by a qualified Ophthalmologist. It is necessary to understand that school eye screenings and screenings at a Paediatrician's office are not enough as there is a chance that they could miss detecting minor health problems that can cause significant issues in the future.
Dr. Girija Suresh, Senior Ophthalmic Consultant
Fortis Hospital Mulund