Back to school with healthy eyes

Six simple tips for parents and teachers

By Dr. Giovanna Olivares, OD, FAAO; Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Director & Staff Writer

As parents and teachers, it’s all about giving children the things they need to have a fun and successful school year. One important and likely underrated aspect of this is their eye health. As Stanford University professor and development economist Scott Rozelle states, correcting vision “is the single most effective health intervention when it comes to improving academic performance.” This is supported by the finding that 80% of what children learn in their first 12 years comes from visuals1.

In this blog post, we'll share simple tips to help nurture healthy eyesight in children as they get ready to head back to school.

1. Get regular eye exams

Kids that can’t see well may get bored, act out, and could even be misdiagnosed with learning or behavioral disorders. The vision screening typically done at school is only capable of detecting certain kinds of vision issues, and it’s reported that up to 75% of them miss vision problems altogether. Regular comprehensive eye exams can check for any current vision problems or those that can develop as they grow, like myopia.

2. Create a vision-friendly environment

Set up a comfortable study area, which can take some customizing based on the child. Comfortable lighting is top priority. Too bright can strain the eyes, as can too dim. The same goes for screen brightness, if the student is using a digital device. Try to match the brightness to the surroundings. Finally, ensure their reading distance is adequate. Computer screens should be viewed from at least 20 inches away.

3. Encourage healthy digital habits

Remind children to take breaks from screens every 20 minutes (we know, this can be a challenge) and encourage a balance between screen time and outdoor activities. Research shows that two or more hours a day outside can help reduce the onset of myopia or slow its progression.2

4. Provide eye-healthy foods

Yes, certain foods support healthy eyesight and eye development. Those foods include fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in vitamins A, C, and E in their meals like carrots, spinach, and citrus fruits.

5. Protect Their Eyes

When students play outside, such as during recess, encourage wearing sunglasses to shield from harmful UV rays. If they’re playing sports through school or in a recreational league, be sure to protect their eyes when necessary, by wearing protective gear.

6. Watch for warning signs

It can sometimes be hard to spot the signs of eye issues, but some things to look out for are frequent headaches, squinting, or rubbing eyes. If you notice any concerns, consult an eye doctor.

Healthy eyes are essential for a successful school year. By following these simple tips, parents and teachers can support children's eye health and ensure a comfortable and safe learning experience.

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About the author

Giovanna E. Olivares, OD, FAAO

About the author

Giovanna E. Olivares, OD, FAAO is the Global Director, Specialty Platforms Research & Development, at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care (JJVC). In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the strategy, design, and development of new products to support the company’s global Astigmatism and Presbyopia platforms. In 2017 under her leadership, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, launched ACUVUE® Oasys 1-Day with Hydroluxe® for Astigmatism and ACUVUE® Vita® for Astigmatism to meet our patients’ needs. In 2021, her team launched ACUVUE® OASYS MULTIFOCAL with PUPIL OPTIMIZED design. Recently in September, 2022, she launched ACUVUE® OASYS MAX MULTIFOCAL for presbyopia patients. Dr. Olivares joined Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. in 2004 as Sr. Manager of the R&D Design Clinical Research Group. In this role, she led a multidisciplinary group including Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, Vision Scientists, and Biostatisticians responsible for the development of new innovative contact lens products and clinical methodology. Under her leadership, the group launched several brands including ACUVUE® ADVANCE for ASTIGMATISM, ACUVUE® OASYS for ASTIGMATISM, and 1-DAY ACUVUE® MOIST for ASTIGMATISM. Under her leadership, the first validated patient questionnaire for JJVC was developed, CLUE (Contact Lens User Experience). In 2010, she was appointed to the position of Director of Professional Education, responsible for developing innovative educational programs across the spectrum of students, eye care professionals, Professional Affairs Consultants, and the company’s Sales & Marketing organizations. Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson Vision, Dr. Olivares served as the Director of Clinical and Professional Development for Unilens Corp. USA, where she developed contact lens designs for presbyopia. Additionally, she has practiced in an ophthalmology practice, private optometric practice, retail optometry, and as a technical medical consultant at TLC, a center for LASIK surgery. Dr. Olivares received her BS degree from the University of Rochester and her OD degree from the State University of New York (SUNY). She subsequently completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Ocular Disease management at the SUNY College of Optometry. After her fellowship, she joined the SUNY faculty as an Assistant Professor with clinical and didactic teaching responsibilities in the areas of contact lenses, ocular disease, pediatric/binocular vision, and primary care. Dr. Olivares is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, has authored numerous scientific articles and has lectured internationally on contact lens technology and fitting for success.

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References:

  1. Jensen, E. (2008). Brain Based Learning: The New Science Of Teaching and Training. San Diego, The Brain Store.
  2. Wu PC, Chen CT, Lin KK, et al. Myopia Prevention and Outdoor Light Intensity in a School-Based Cluster Randomized Trial. Ophthalmology 2018;125:1239-50.

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