Do You Pay Attention to Eye Health? You Should.

girl eye iris closeupIt’s amazing as parents how much attention we pay to our children’s health. Not every facet of health, though, just the easy and overt aspects, like nutrition, sleep and exercise. At least, I hope you’re paying attention to those three cornerstones of health with your children, whether they’re 4 or 14. This means that generally you need to lead by example, of course, so if you eat poorly, sleep just a few hours each night and consider walking to the mailbox your daily hike, well, you’re not doing your wee ones any favors there.

But there’s a lot more to overall health than just those three, including dental health (they do clean their teeth thoroughly at least once/daily, right? And you do too, I hope?) and mental health. Oh, it’s easy to just assume your kids have things covered and that you don’t need to talk about how they’re feeling and what’s real for them right now at school, church, home, with siblings, or even with you, but good parents know better. Talk to them.

There’s another facet of health that I want to actually talk about in this piece, however: eye health. The vast majority of us rely on our eyesight, but pay just about zero attention to our eyes and what keeps them healthy and functioning for us. I pay attention, however, and my prescription for my kids involves two key things: sunglasses for when they’re outside (particularly on hikes or bike rides when they’re in the glare of the sun for a long period of time) and minimizing their exposure to screens and so-called “blue light” in the evening and into the night too.

mac macos x - night shift blue lightI apply the same rules to my own eyesight, and wear high quality, high UV-protection polarized sunglasses 99% of the time I’m outside, particularly while I’m driving when glare and reflections can be particularly painful. For the nighttime screens, I’m not great at that, but technology itself is catching up: Mac and Windows systems now have “night shift” or similar to filter out all the blue spectrum light from the screen as the evening proceeds. Your iPhone or Android phone – or tablet – has a similar capability too. Turn it on, and turn it on for your children’s devices too!

Living in Colorado, we have to deal with what’s often a ridiculously low humidity level. This means everyone’s skin is always dry, but it also means that your eyes have to work extra hard to stay moist. Help ’em out with eye drops: I always have some drops in my car, my bedside table and elsewhere in the house. When I travel, I bring a bottle and after a fatiguing day outdoors somewhere like Las Vegas, the cool eye drops can feel sublime and amazingly relaxing.

Here’s another amazing fact: The American Optometric Association figures that one in four children in the U.S. has a vision problem that could affect their learning and success in school. One in four.

Finally, pay attention to eye exams too. The phrase “the eyes are a window to the soul” can easily also refer to your health and an annual eye exam for you and your children can detect early warning signs of diabetes, high cholesterol and brain tumors. Scary stuff, but better to know sooner than later, right? The American Optometric Association also estimates that 1 in 4 children in the U.S. have vision problems, so make sure your child’s struggles in school aren’t because they need glasses to see the board clearly or to read without strain. A good place to start:

vsp vision care logoI was invited to write this post by the team at VSP Vision Care, but as someone who has lots of sunglasses and really does pay attention to my own and my children’s eye health, this is just good parenting in my book anyway. So how about you? Are you paying attention to all facets of your own and your children’s health, including eye health?

Disclosure: This blog post is sponsored by VSP® Vision Care, the leading provider in visio care and coverage, providing access to care for more than 84 million members. Visit or talk to your employer to enroll with VSP this open enrollment season.

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