Eyes are the window to the soul…or so the saying goes. They are often seen in artwork, heard about in songs, and revered in ancient historical monuments.
Sometimes the eye is associated with spiritual intelligence, light, or wisdom. In the physical sense, it is one of the 5 senses that you use to process the information of your world.
Taking care of your eyes, and the eyes of your children are important for a good quality of life.
Did you know that according to one study (1), roughly 547,000 children under the age of 18 had vision problems in the United States? Of these, there were more male than female.
While some vision problems can be genetic, other times it can be avoided. It’s estimated that every year, between 3 and 5 million (2) kids will have eye injuries of some type.
August is a special month to highlight eye health. Because of that, we put together some holistic tips you can implement to protect your child’s vision and preserve their eyesight for years to come.
Tips #1 - Begin from Within: Protection in the Womb
Keeping your child’s vision safe begins long before they’re this side of earth. It takes over 6 months of intensely thorough development before they open their eyes for the first time at 27 weeks (3).
Whether you’re expecting your first or fifth child, it’s important to take in the right nutrition before and after the baby is born.
Eating a variety of the foods in the next section, as well as taking a prenatal or multivitamin, can help give your growing child the best eye protection.
Tip #2 - Focus on Foods
What you eat matters. Eating foods rich in certain nutrients can help support your child’s vision. Some of the best foods (4) for healthy vision include:
- Beef – High in zinc, this food can help your liver send vitamin A to your eyes. Oysters are also high in zinc and will provide the same function.
- Nuts – Once your child is old enough to eat nuts (around 3 years old), offering them walnuts, pistachios, and almonds can greatly help to preserve their eyes. These are high in vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant against free radicals.
- Eggs – High in vitamin A, this is a great choice for optimizing your child’s vision.
- Carrots – This root vegetable holds a lot of beta carotenes in them, which helps with vitamin A production. Vitamin A has been shown to help protect eye health.
- Fish – salmon, mackerel, and tuna contain omega-3s in them. These fatty acids help prevent dry eyes by providing adequate lubrication.
- Leafy Greens – vegetables like kale, spinach, and collard greens have high levels of carotenoids like zeaxanthin and lutein. These have antioxidant properties that help keep free radicals out of your eyes.
- Berries – Rich in vitamin C, these fruits can help boost your child’s immune system. This can help protect against eye infections.
- Citrus fruit – Along the same lines as berries, citrus fruits provide a ton of vitamin C to help protect against viral or bacterial eye infections.
Tip #3 - Hone in on Herbs
Herbs are also an excellent way to strengthen your child’s eye muscles and preserve their vision. Some of the best herbs that support overall eye health (10) include:
- Fennel seeds- When made into a tea, this herb contains anti-inflammatory properties that help to calm and soothe irritation.
- Bentonite clay- When made into a poultice, this clay has been used to help draw out toxins from the eye and reduce eye infection lifespan*.
- Bilberry- In addition to its many other uses, bilberry can help support your night vision.
- Passionflower extract- This works as a nerve relaxer and can help calm eye strain.
- Ginkgo Biloba- this herb helps to promote blood circulation, and has been used to help heal black eyes, as well as prevent macular degeneration.
*Note: Talk with your doctor before attempting to place anything directly onto the eyes. Some remedies should never be placed in or on the eye.
Tip #4 - Add Daily Activity
Staying active is just as important as eating healthy foods. How can vision be positively influenced by activity?
Playing outside: Studies show that playing outside can help slow down the progression of myopia (5) (being near-sighted) in children. When your child looks around at objects farther away, it gives their eye muscles a chance to relax. Spending even one hour outside per day can lessen your child’s risk of developing myopia by 14%!
Toys and Games: Certain games and toys (8) can help improve your child’s eye health and visual acuteness. For children two and under, the following are great ways to strengthen your child’s growing eye connections:
- Bright colored toys,
- Playing peek-a-boo,
- Textured toys (furry, rubbery, etc)
As your child grows, these activities can help sharpen and hone the nerve signaling within the eye. This can help determine depth and details a lot better:
- Riding bikes
- Finger painting
- Making bracelets
Other Eye Health Ideas
Other ways to help protect the health of your child’s eyes are:
Give your eyes frequent breaks: If your kids get a lot of screen time, have them take frequent breaks to give their eyes a rest. The best recommendation is the 20-20-20 rule (6): take a break every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.
Wear sunglasses outside: Protect your child’s vision from harmful UV rays. Choosing sunglasses that block 99-100% of UV rays are ideal.
Wear protective gear: If your child plays certain sports, enjoys science experiments, or wants to help fix things around the house, investing in some good goggles is a smart idea. You can find these kinds of safety glasses online or at our local supermarket.
Discourage smoking: This applies more to teens than young children, but the message is still clear. Smoking not only damages your lungs, but it can also damage the optic nerve in your eyes. This can increase the risk of developing cataracts (7) later on in life.
Q: Does eyesight come from Dad or Mom?
A: Poor vision is not necessarily a dominant trait. So the answer is neither, although poor vision tends to run in the family.
Q: What are the most common causes of eye injuries?
A: The seven most common reasons children injure their eyes (9) are: corneal abrasion (scratching the eye), bleeding from straining (coughing too hard), black eye (physical trauma), injury from a foreign object, chemical burns, retinal detachment (trauma), and eye socket fractures (trauma).
Q: What causes myopia (near-sightedness)?
A: “Myopia causes the light that enters the eye to be focused in front of the retina, rather than directly on the retina— and results in blurred distance vision (5).”
Your eyes are a gift, and keeping your children’s eyes safe and healthy is an ongoing venture.
Taking prenatal vitamins while your child is in the womb, playing with age-appropriate toys, providing healthy, nutrient-dense foods to your child, and encouraging them to play outside every day are all great ways to keep your child’s eyes and vision safe and healthy.
Have you thought about your child’s eye health? If not, the best time to start is right now!