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5 Essential Eye Care Tips For Kids

Aug 29 2014 - 3:16am

Going back to school means staring at blackboards, reading tiny text from big books, and scrolling down the computer screen. But for children with impaired vision, these tasks pose a bit of a challenge, especially if they think they have A+ vision. If left untreated, poor eye vision can lead to a poor academic career.

"We know that 80 percent of a child's learning is visual, so if a child's vision is suffering it puts him or her at a disadvantage of learning and succeeding at school," Dr. Mark Jacquot, an optometrist and vice president of the LensCrafters Eye Doctor Board, says. Jacquot adds that often times, teachers interpret the students' troubles as a learning disability, which only adds to the difficulties. "They can be labeled as having some kind of of ADHD when often times all they needed was an eye exam and a pair of glasses." To keep your child from squinting and struggling through the school year, Jacquot offers these easy-to-follow eye care tips.

Schedule a Back-to-School Eye Exam

While most schools offer vision screenings throughout the year, Jacquot says they are not the most reliable way to track your child's eye health.

"They're designed to flag one or two vision issues," he says. "So there's a bit of a misconception that if your child passes a vision screening, then all is well." To avoid sending your child to school with blurry vision, Jacquot says parents should schedule a comprehensive eye exam every year. But you don't have to wait until your child starts school to evaluate their eyes. According to Jacquot, children should go in for eye exams at 6 months and 3 years old and then yearly once they turn 5.

Have Safer Screen Time

Think playing on the iPad doesn't hurt your child's health? Think again. Nearsightedness among children 12 years old and older has increased from 25 to 42 percent due to the use of electronic devices. While you may not be able to eliminate screens all together, Jacquot says there are ways to protect your child from their damaging effects. First, encourage your child to enjoy some outdoor activities after school. Second, invest in glare-reducing screen covers. Third, implement Jacquot's 20-20-20 rule.

"Every 20 minutes look away at a distance of 20 feet for approximately 20 seconds," Jacquot says. "That gives the eyes a little bit of a break and can help avoid a lot of the problems that extreme exposure to tablets can cause."

Whip Up Eye-Healthy Meals

Nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, lycopene, beta-carotene, and omega-3 play an important role in your child's eye health, so make sure you incorporate them into their meals. Start by blending a hidden veggie smoothie [1] for breakfast, giving them carrots as an after-school snack, or serving fish for dinner.

Protect Them From UV Rays

Just because your child isn't chilling on the beach doesn't mean they don't need sunglasses. Make sure your child wears some sort of shade every time they go outside, as UV exposure can result in cataracts, macular degeneration, and even some forms of eye cancer.

Make Them Comfortable in Their Frames

Many children fight the idea of wearing glasses, fearing that it makes them a target for bullying and mean names (four-eyes, window face, nerd, etc.). To make the transition easier, Jacquot says parents have to make glasses seem cool. The main way to do that is by investing in some stylish specs [2].

"There are a lot more styles out there for younger patients than we've ever had," Jacquot says. "When kids like their glasses, they'll be more inclined to wear them." Jacquot also suggests printing out photos of celebrities, athletes, and TV characters with glasses to show your child that they are not alone.

"It's important to help children understand that glasses are a part of life," Jacqot says. "And it is absolutely more common than they think."

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