Don't Overlook Children's Eye Health this Holiday Season

Don't Overlook Children's Eye Health this Holiday Season

Children's bright eyes epitomize the holiday season, but they can quickly become weary eyes without careful parent involvement. From toy safety to the effects of computer games, children's vision is particularly vulnerable at this time of year. In fact, a recent survey cites toys as the number one cause of eye injury to children. In 1995, over 15,000 eye injuries involving toys were reported in hospital emergency rooms, according to Prevent Blindness.

"Most eye injuries caused by toys are completely preventable," said Jeff Sanger, 0.D. "Many parents are simply unaware of what to look for to maximize eye safety."
Some tips that Dr. Sanger suggests parents consider before purchasing toys for their children include:

  • Avoid toys that shoot objects, have parts that fly off or have sharp edges.

  • Look for the ASTM label, which means the product meets the safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

  • Follow manufacturer's suggested age level for a toy.

  • Make sure toys are well made and durable.

Children do not need physical contact with a toy for it to be dangerous. Another potential eye hazard called Computer Vision Syndrome can result from the countless hours children are likely to spend playing new computer games received over the holidays. "Extended exposure to computer screens is particularly straining on children's eyes because they are still developing," said Dr. Melinda Kennel from Prairie EyeCare Center. "Focusing on an object in close proximity for an extended amount of time can cause eye fatigue, headaches or spasms in children's eyes. A great way to alleviate computer vision syndrome is the 20/20/20 rule.  It’s easy to remember: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, and look at something 20 feet away. And don’t forget to blink! Blinking washes your eyes in naturally therapeutic tears."

Some tips that Dr. Kennel suggests parents consider when children are spending time on the computer:

  • Be sure a child sits at least an arm's length away from the computer monitor or television screen when playing computer or video games.

  • Put reference material next to the screen on a copy stand to reduce eye stress caused by looking down repetitively.

  • Encourage intermittent breaks away from the computer screen to give eyes a chance to rest.

  • Position the monitor perpendicular to windows and place a glare reduction filter over the computer screen. (Look for a filter that has received the American Optometric Association Seal of Acceptance.)

  • Finally, if Computer Vision Syndrome is a continual problem consider purchasing Anti-Fatigue lenses.  Anti-fatigues lenses alleviate eye strain associated with extended computer work.

Dr. Sanger added that the school vacation for the holidays is a great time to take a child for their annual eye exam. The American Optometric Association recommends that a child's eyes be examined once by the time they are six months, again at age three and annually after the age of five.

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