Spring is here. Parents of children with myopia can help manage their condition by dial-up outdoor activities.
It's that bright and invigorating time of year again - the snow is melting, the birds are chirping, and the flowers are blooming. For parents of children with myopia, spring also brings longer daytime and better weather for more outdoor activities to help manage the condition.
In this article, we'll take a closer look at the science behind myopia and outdoor time, and I'll share some thoughts on how I plan to adjust my son's myopia management plan starting in spring. At the end of the article, I'll also provide some fun and engaging ideas to help your child to get outside and enjoy the benefits of natural daylight. So, let's get started!
How does outdoor time affect myopia progression?
Outdoor time can play a significant role in controlling myopia development in children. Research has shown that spending time outdoors can have a protective effect on myopia progression. One possible explanation for this is the light-stimulated release of dopamine from the retina, which inhibits increased axial elongation of the eye.
In most children, myopia occurs when the shape of the eye becomes abnormally long. Spending time outdoors with sufficient daylight can help reduce the likelihood of abnormal eye growth resulting in less myopia progression in children.
The Refractive Errors Preferred Practice Pattern 2022 published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) highlighted that studies indicated an increased time spent outdoors significantly decreased the risk of myopic development and progression.
A meta-analysis study also found that more outdoor activities -- around 14-15 hours per week -- slowed myopic progression by 0.14 diopters per year.
While this effect may seem modest, it is a therapeutic efficacy that you don't need a prescription or would set you back many "Benjamins." And it is as simple as telling your child, "go out and play with their friends until supper time."
Adjusting my son’s treatment for the spring season
Let's discuss how I plan to adjust my son's myopia control strategy from the winter. My son uses a combination of Orthokeratology contact lenses (Ortho-K) and 0.05% atropine to manage his myopia. This intensive therapy is strong enough to be effective even during the fast-progressing winter. However, some adjustments may be appropriate with more outdoor time at its possible full effectiveness.
The plan is to continue using Ortho-K for six nights, followed by an off day, per our doctor's instructions. Additionally, similar to the regimen last November, we will dial down 0.05% atropine eye drops from once nightly to five days a week – taking Mondays and Wednesdays off – to mitigate the blurred near-vision side effects that my son experienced. It's important to note that the off days for the eye drops are staggered with an off day for the Ortho-K lenses.
Outdoor time has been found to have a positive effect on preventing myopia from progressing. Therefore, we will be keeping a log of my son's daily outdoor activities using an activity sheet to encourage him to get two hours of outdoor time each day.
We will also be implementing a 5-minute break for every hour of near-vision activities. During the break, he will look at objects that are more than 20 feet away.
Research showed that the increased availability and use of digital screens by young children may promote myopia onset and progression. To minimize the time my son spends on digital devices, the screen time will be limited to less than 30 minutes per day.
Finally, based on the Guidance on Management Myopia published by the European Society of Ophthalmology and International Myopia Institute, we will ensure that my son's homework area is well-lit with an incandescent light bulb with sufficient brightness since using LED lamps was associated with more myopic refractive error and longer axial length.
Spring outdoor activities ideas for myopia control
As previously mentioned, now that winter is behind us and spring is here, encouraging your child to play outside can help reduce the likelihood of myopia progression. Here are some outdoor activity ideas to get you started:
- Sports and games: Encourage your child to participate in outdoor sports like soccer, baseball, or football. Outdoor games like tag or hide and seek are also great options to get them moving and having fun.
- Nature exploration: Take your child on hikes, walks, or bike rides through local parks. Visit outdoor attractions like botanical gardens, zoos, or outdoor museums. Not only will they get to explore the great outdoors, but they will also be exposed to plenty of daylight.
- Creative outdoor activities: Encourage your child to get creative with outdoor activities like chalk drawing, outdoor painting, or building woodwork outside. The fresh air and bright light can help stimulate their creativity while reducing myopia progression.
- Family outdoor activities: Plan weekend activities that the whole family can enjoy together, such as picnics or BBQs. This is a great way to spend quality time together and encourage your child to spend more time outside.
- Gardening: If your child does not have spring allergies, involve them in planting and caring for flowers, vegetables, or herbs. This will provide them with a sense of responsibility and help them experience the joys of gardening.
- Go to the school bus stop a little bit early: If your child takes the school bus in the morning, consider sending your child to the school bus stop a little earlier so that they can meet up with friends and spend more time outside each morning.
While it may be challenging for busy parents to spend two hours every afternoon with their child, you can plan ahead and find safe outdoor activities for them to play with their schoolmates or neighbors. Encouraging your child to spend more time outside not only can promote a healthy and active lifestyle but also help reduce the progression of myopia.
Myopia is a common eye condition among children, but it can be managed with simple lifestyle changes. To reduce your child's myopia progression, parents can encourage them to spend more time outdoors, limit screen time, take appropriate eye breaks, and ensure proper lighting in study areas.
Encouraging children to engage in outdoor activities such as sports, nature exploration, and creative activities is not only fun and healthy, but it can also provide the necessary outdoor time to slow down myopia progression.
So, tell your little ones to "go outside and play" like our parents did when we were young. It's really for their myopia, really.
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