Sunlight a solution for children’s eye health

personalEYES | 12 Sep 2019

Sunlight a solution for children’s eye health

If you want your child to have healthy eyesight in the long term, look to the sun.

Researchers at the University of Sydney have found that exposure to sunshine as a small child is crucial to the prevention of short-sightedness, or myopia, later in life.

According to their report published last month in the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s professional journal, children under the age of six should spend at least 10 hours a week outdoors in the sun.

This exposure to sunlight will foster the growth of a normal healthy eyeball, preventing it from growing too fast or becoming egg-shaped instead of round.

“The results show that the protective effect of time spent outdoors as a very small child persists even if a child is doing a lot of near work such as reading and studying,” said the report’s lead author, Amanda French.

Even low levels of myopia place adults at higher risk of cataracts and glaucoma later in life, according to French, who said the promotion of eye health should be prioritised by government.

“Promoting outdoor activity to parents and families, and including more outdoor pursuits in school curricula could be an important public health measure to avoid the development of myopia.”

The researched looked at more than 2000 Sydney children for a number of risk factors linked with myopia. The children were given eye examinations before researchers gathered information on their ethnicities, physical activities and time spent outdoors. Researchers also gathered data on near-sighted activities such as computer use and time taken watching television.

No matter the ethnicity of a child, time spent in outdoor light was shown to reduce the likelihood of myopia.

In a blow to popular belief, the study showed television watching and computer use appeared to have little effect on the development of refractive errors in the eye.

And while children with at least one short-sighted parent were found to be more likely to develop myopia themselves, time spent outdoors was shown to have a mitigating effect on its development.

Link/credit to Dennis Brekke