As many of you already know I have been working on how to reduce the incidence of short-sightedness ever since I opened my practice (previously icontact) in Manly.

I offered special visual training and multifocal glasses and advised parents to minimise their kids exposure to near activities. At the same time I started correcting short-sightedness in kids using an overnight technique called orthokeratology and noticed these kids stopped getting more short-sighted over the months and years. Some are still doing this at 30! I joined the Orthokeratology Society of Oceania (OSO) which teamed up with the International Academy of Orthokeratology and Myopia Control (IAOMC) a few years later. The OSO in cooperation with the IAOMC has put together a post, on how to protect your child’s sight over this COVID-19 period. Here it is with a few additions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced school, mall, parks and other outdoor activities to close.  This has forced children to “shelter in their homes”.  And what do most children do when at home?  They play video games and work at their computers for hours and hours.  Lack of outdoor time and extensive near work are both serious risk factors for increasing myopia (shortsightedness) in children, a condition that increases the risk of permanent sight-threatening disease later in life.

Will we see a large increase in children developing short-sightedness in the next year?  Will myopic children find that their prescription increases in strength at a faster rate in the coming year due to the COVID-19 lifestyle restrictions.  It is very possible?

So what can a parent do to lessen these serious challenges posed by the government’s “shelter in home” instructions?

1.  Ensure that your child goes outdoors for 1 hour every day.  Like a walk with the dog or at least out on a balcony or the back door step or yard.
2.  Invent interesting outdoor activities and participate with your children, see the articles below for ideas.
3.  Get them to read or work on their devices outdoors. High light levels are thought to be a key protective factor of outdoor time in regards to myopia. Even under shade, umbrella, or with a hat and sunglasses, the light levels typically reaching a child’s eye will exceed that of indoors.  If they can’t get outdoors for this, due to weather or apartment living, do this near natural lighting, for example, by a large window
4.  Ensure that they take a 10-minute break for every 30 minutes of screen time and try and limit it to only 1-2 hours per day during these periods when they are at home. Praise and treat your kids when you catch them doing the right thing and keeping their devices at least 40cm from their eyes.
5  The web has lots of ideas to help you protect your child’s future sight:
Supporting Kids During the Coronavirus Crisis | Child Mind Institute
250+ Creative Ways to Keep Your Family Sane During the COVID-19 Crisis

6. It’s a good time to teach kids how to wash their hands properly and please include a clean nail brush for under their fingernails.

Good luck and stay safe (and sane).  Our practice is closed at the moment.  If you are concerned about your child’s eyesight or want to learn more about how we can limit myopia progression as they get older, feel free to get in touch with us via phone (02) 99772554 or 0414 568 142.

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Max Humphreys with thanks to our colleague in the US,  Dr Caroline Guerrero Cauchi, and Alex Petty, our VP, for content