Summer is here: how to take care of your child’s eyes during the pandemic

Updated June 10, 2020

With kids finally out of school, now is the time for parents to think about their child’s eyes and vision. Most children massively increased screen use during COVID-19, increasing their risk of myopia (blurry distance vision). Myopia traditionally has been thought of as a nuisance, easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses. However, as this recent Wall Street Journal article highlights, myopia in children significantly increases a child’s risk of serious eye diseases. Poor vision resulting from myopia can also impact a child’s performance in school and activities. Fortunately for parents, new treatments can now slow or even stop the progression of myopia in children.

Below are some research driven actions parents can take this summer.

Increase Outdoor Time

There are numerous studies showing outdoor time can delay or even prevent the development of myopia in kids. We recommend 2-3 hours a day of outdoor time. This was difficult with kids doing online school, but now is the time to take advantage of summer to schedule time and activities for your child outside.

Reduce Screen Time

Parents struggle with screen time and their children for a number of reasons. More studies shows that increased near work (screens, reading, etc.) may be a factor in the progression of myopia in children. While eliminating screens isn’t practical, try to put limits on screen time and encourage frequent breaks. 

Proper Reading Tips

When kids need to do a lot of reading, new research suggests that it may be beneficial to do it at night vs. in
the morning. Some early studies also suggests adjusting digital devices to have black backgrounds with white text.
If your child reads in bed, laying on their back might be the best position to help minimize increasing myopia.

Get a Comprehensive Eye Exam

School and pediatrician vision screenings can miss up to 75% of vision issues in children. Taking your child to the eye doctor for a comprehensive exam annually is the best way to ensure your child’s vision is optimal. At this exam the doctor can discuss which treatment will work best if your child has myopia. 

 

Early intervention for myopia is key, as these treatments are most effective when started early. Our Myopia Resource Center keeps up with the latest information about myopia, and use our Make An Appointment feature to find a Treehouse Eyes provider in your area.

 

Dr. Gary Gerber, O.D.

Chief Myopia Eradication Officer

Treehouse Eyes

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Tips for kids and screen use

Updated May 12, 2020

Parents are dealing with kids using an unprecedented amount of screens during this time. While we can’t stop online learning, there are some proven tips that can help your child use screens in a way that reduces the impact on their vision and eye health. In addition to the tips below, we always recommend kids get at least 2-3 hours of outdoor time each day if possible. This benefits their eyes and vision as well as their whole body. Below are our top tips for screen use:

#1: Ensure books or screens held at least 14″ away

Children’s eyes are able to adapt and focus easily at different distances. However, the more a child is focusing on objects close to their face, the harder their eyes have to work to maintain clear vision. Encourage your child to hold books and tablets at least 14″ away, and setup any computer use to do the same. If possible see if your child’s work can be projected on a TV screen that is even further away. In Portugal they revived “teleschool” during COVID-19 to help kids get lessons via their TV. If you notice your child moving the book or computer closer to their face constantly, they may have a vision issue. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam for your child to have them checked out. Many providers are now offering telehealth options you can do from home.

#2: Adopt a good reading posture

Many children will slump or tilt their head with extended reading or screen time. A proper posture sitting up in a chair helps ensure kids keep the reading material and a proper distance from their eyes. It also helps ensure they don’t tilt their head constantly, which may lead to a variability in the prescription between their eyes. 

#3: Take breaks frequently

Kids often get very focused on their favorite online game or book. Encourage them to take a break from any near work at least every 30 minutes. They should get up, ideally get outside and move their body and enable their eyes to focus on different distances. This is good for their visual health and body as well. It is hard for kids to remember this, so we recommend setting a timer to remind them. 

One concern with all the indoor time kids have right now on screens is an increase in myopia (blurry distance vision). Untreated, myopia in children usually gets worse and their vision deteriorates. Make sure to schedule a comprehensive annual eye exam for your child, this is even more important now to ensure your child is seeing and performing their best. Our Myopia Resource Center keeps up with the latest information about myopia, and use our Make An Appointment feature to find a Treehouse Eyes provider in your area.

 

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COVID-19: The impact of school from home on your child’s vision and eye health

Updated April 1, 2020

Kids across the country have started distance learning due to COVID-19. Many concerned parents have asked about the impact of more screen time and less outdoor time on their child. Parents know that outdoor time is good for kids–studies show outdoor movement helps in many areas of childhood development. We know that more outdoor time can have a protective effect on your child’s vision as well. Studies show more outdoor time can delay or help prevent the onset of myopia (blurry distance vision). This is important not only for your child’s vision, but also their eye health. Higher myopia increases their lifetime risk of serious eye diseases such as retinal disease and glaucoma.

Outdoor time & screen time

While numerous studies show outdoor time can delay or even prevent the development of myopia in kids, the exact mechanism is unknown. Hypothesis range from kids spending more time outdoors spend less time on screens, to an impact from sunlight and Vitamin D. Given 50% of the world is projected to be myopic by 2050, this is an area of ongoing research. Screen time is another area being studied to better understand the impact of electronic devices on the developing eye. Many studies are starting to show that more close up work, like time on devices, may also contribute to childhood myopia. So parents are right to be concerned about this move to distance learning which leads to more screen time and less outdoor time.

What can you do now?

The COVID-19 pandemic is something you can’t control. Schools will be closed for weeks, if not months. What you can do now is schedule in outdoor time every day for your child. They need the break (and so do you!), and the time outside can be helpful for their vision and eye health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends frequent breaks from screen time and has some tips to help parents cope with this new situation, including getting kids outside. Ideally setup your child’s school work area in a well lit room with a not of natural light.

 

If your child does become myopic, new treatments can slow or even stop the progression of myopia. Early intervention is key, as these treatments are most effective when started early. Our Myopia Resource Center keeps up with the latest information about myopia, and use our Make An Appointment feature to find a Treehouse Eyes provider in your area.

 

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The positive effects of outdoor time on kids

Updated February 27, 2020

Parents know that outdoor time is good for kids–studies show outdoor movement helps in many areas of childhood development. A recent analysis of 23 clinical studies confirms outdoor time helps children’s vision as well. Getting kids outdoors more is proven to be the most beneficial thing we can do to prevent or delay the onset of myopia (blurry distance vision). You can view the summary of these 23 studies here on the National Institutes of Health website.

Outdoor time matters

Numerous studies show outdoor time can delay or even stop the development of myopia in kids, but the exact mechanism is unknown. Hypothesis range from kids spending more time outdoors spend less time on screens, to an impact from sunlight and Vitamin D. Given 50% of the world is projected to be myopic by 2050, this is an area of ongoing research. If we can better understand why outdoor time has a protective effect, new strategies and treatments can be developed to help kids. Myopia is more than a visual inconvenience. Higher rates of myopia are associated with significantly increased risks of serious eye diseases later in life.

Parents can take action now

Encourage outdoor play for your child year round to benefit them in numerous ways. If your child does become myopic, new treatments can slow or even stop the progression of myopia. Early intervention is key, as these treatments are most effective when started early. Our Myopia Resource Center keeps up with the latest information about myopia, and use our Make An Appointment feature to find a Treehouse Eyes provider in your area.

 

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Can you prevent myopia in your child?

Updated January 30, 2020

The dramatic rise in childhood myopia (blurry distance vision) in recent years has driven robust discussion over the cause.. This article in Economist about myopia in China shows just how mainstream this topic has become. Parents seeking myopia treatment for their child at Treehouse Eyes often ask what they can do for younger children . While there is no “silver bullet”, we do now have good data on ways to help delay or in some cases potentially prevent the onset of myopia in children.

The impact of outdoor time and screen time

There is now good evidence that more outdoor time for children can delay the onset of myopia. This research summary provides a good overview of the data and evidence. So step one is get kids outdoors more. There is also now more evidence that reducing near work (reading, screen time) can also help reduce myopic progression. This is a huge challenge for parents, as schools and society put more on our kids to be reading, on computers and smartphones than ever before. The emerging data, summarized nicely in this research summary, is clear–having kids spend less time on near work activities can help with myopia. So step two is reducing near work as much as possible. More research is being done specifically in areas like blue light (due to devices), the impact of various positions when reading, etc. We will continue to monitor these results and share the latest evidence-driven recommendations.

How to help your child today

Despite best efforts, many children will still become myopic due to genetics. That is why an annual comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor is critical, as new treatments are now available to slow or even stop the progression of myopia in children. Early intervention is key, as many of these treatments are most effective if treatment is started early. Our Myopia Resource Center keeps up with the latest information about myopia, and use our Make An Appointment feature to find a Treehouse Eyes provider in your area.

 

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Why Myopia matters: the link to eye disease

Updated December 23, 2019

 

For most people myopia (blurry distance vision) is a nuisance easily fixed with glasses or contact lenses. While myopia can be easily compensated for to see clearly, what most people don’t realize is myopia significantly increases the risks of serious eye diseases such as retinal disease and glaucoma. Now that there are effective treatments to slow down or even stop the progression of myopia in children, we should no longer just accept progressive myopia as a fact for our kids.

A recent article in Healio quotes Dr. Judy E. Kim, MD, who is a professor of ophthalmology at Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Kim states that “By 2050, half of the world will have myopia….and this increases the risk of retinal tears and detachments, and also other conditions.” Dr. Kim was part of a joint ophthalmology-optometry symposium on myopia where the implication for public health of unchecked myopia was the focus.

Education is critical to early intervention and, where needed treatment. Our Myopia Resource Center keeps up with the latest information about myopia, and use our Make An Appointment feature to find a Treehouse Eyes provider in your area.

 

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New USA Today article details the rise in childhood myopia

Updated December 2, 2019

 

Another great article today appeared in USA today detailing the rise of myopia in children. This article interviews parents whose children are becoming nearsighted earlier and faster than their parents. The article correctly discusses lack of outdoor time as a driver for earlier onset of myopia, and more near work (reading, screen time) also playing into this massive increase. See the full article here .

While researchers continue to look into the exact causes behind the rise in childhood myopia, what is known is we can now treat myopia. Parents no longer have to just watch as their child gets stronger glasses every year. The article discusses treatments we use frequently at Treehouse Eyes, including customized contact lenses and prescription eye drops. The key is for parents to intervene early, taking their child in for a comprehensive eye exam and discussing treatment options and goals.

Parents can now do a risk assessment for their child at TreehouseEyes.com to see their risk of developing progressive myopia. This helps parents to know if their child is at risk and take action. Like most medicine, early intervention is the key to helping your child.

 

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