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Children's Eye Health

Posted 08-06-2013 at 09:38 AM by ChristaIB
Updated 08-09-2013 at 10:56 AM by ChristaIB

girlglassesDid you know that August is Children's Eye Health and Safety Month?

As kids, we all got advice on how to care for and protect our eyes and vision. As adults, we probably pass some of that same advice on to our own children. The thing is, while some of the advice—like “Don’t stare at the sun”—is good, a lot of it is inaccurate, and even dangerous. Below we revisit seven popular myths regarding children’s eye & vision health.

Myth #1: Sitting too close to the TV/computer/book will damage your eyes.

Are you telling your children not to sit too close to the television screen? The TV thing started in the 1960s, when old-school televisions used to emit high levels of radiation. Today’s televisions don’t have those emissions, so there is no need to sit at a distance of 3 feet or so. Prior to the advent of television, children were advised not to hold books too close to their faces. The fact is, staring too closely or too long at anything can result in temporarily blurred vision and even cause eyestrain, but it won’t do permanent damage to your child’s vision.

However, if your child is constantly sitting too close to the television, or has his nose against a computer screen, it could be a sign that he needs corrective lenses. That is, his poor vision is causing him to sit too close, not the other way around. This leads us to the next myth...

Myth #2: Children don’t need their vision checked.

Children with vision problems often don’t realize they have them; they just assume that the blackboard is supposed to be blurry from the first row. And while many schools conduct vision screenings, the tests are very basic and won’t detect all eye and vision problems. Just as they need regular dental and pediatric visits, children also need to get comprehensive eye exams at least every two years. The American Optometric Association recommends starting eye exams as early as six months of age.

Myth #3: Reading in the dark will weaken your eyesight.

Reading in the dark will not weaken or permanently damage your eyesight, though it can cause fatigue and eye strain. If your child is a nighttime reader, consider giving her a book light and working with her to create a reading schedule, so that she’s not up all night reading the latest Lemony Snicket, Harry Potter or Percy Jackson book.

Myth #4: Pointy objects are the greatest threat to your child’s eyes.

The National Eye institute indicates that sports are responsible for roughly 60 percent of childhood eye injuries; with baseball being the leading cause in children under 14, and basketball the leading cause in children over 14.
That’s not to say you should allow your child to run around with sharp objects like a pair of scissors or knitting needles. It’s just that equal attention should be paid to making sure your child uses the proper eye protection, like sports goggles or helmets with face guards, when playing sports or engaging in other activities that could pose a danger for eyes.

Myth #5: Carrots will give you super vision.

The myth started because vitamin A deficiencies can cause night blindness—a condition that can be treated with vitamin A supplementation. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, so parents were traditionally advised to feed their kids a high-carrot diet. However, if your child doesn’t have a vitamin A deficiency, going overboard on carrots isn’t going to make his vision any better. Also, too much vitamin A can be toxic to the body and actually cause vision problems; it will also turn your child’s skin orange. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t feed your child carrots, only that you shouldn’t overdo it.

Myth #6: Eye exercises can improve your vision.

Eye exercises can resolve some mechanical problems with the eyes, but they can’t correct vision problems within the eye. In other words, if your child has a lazy eye, exercising the eye muscles could help correct the condition, and some distance exercises can relieve eye strain; but they won’t make her any less near-sighted.

Myth #7: Eyeglasses make your eyes weaker.

The idea behind this myth is that the glasses do all the work, causing your eyes to atrophy from lack of use. In reality, your eyes are still working, even with glasses, the world is just a lot clearer. Another source of the myth is the fact that people who wear glasses sometimes need stronger prescriptions over time. Wearing glasses aren’t to blame for this, but rather the normal changes to the eye that come with growth and aging.

This content was provided to the community by the Healthboards Editorial Staff.

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