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Home » News » Get Some Fresh Air! Go Outside to Boost Your Body & Eye Health

Get Some Fresh Air! Go Outside to Boost Your Body & Eye Health

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Scientific studies abound with support for the timeless wisdom of moms everywhere! Spending more time outdoors is good for kids. It keeps their bodies in good shape, protects against obesity and a variety of diseases, sharpens distance vision, and reduces their chances of myopia (nearsightedness). Are you a skeptic that sending your kids outside to play really packs so much power? Our Clearwater eye doctor explains the benefits of the great outdoors:

Indoor children are at risk

In the past twenty years, childhood has taken a cushy seat indoors. The average kid in America now spends as little as a half-hour a day playing outside daily – and more than seven hours per day gazing at a digital screen! What does all this time indoors on the couch mean for kids’ health? The effects are obvious:

  • Rates of childhood obesity have more than doubled
  • The US is now the largest consumer of ADHD medications worldwide
  • Many children are suffering the effects of not enough sleep
  • Pediatricians are prescribing more antidepressants than ever
  • Myopia is reaching epidemic proportions

Since when is sun exposure a good thing?

In moderation and with appropriate protection for skin and eyes, exposure to the sun can be a good thing. Bodies need access to the sun to make vitamin D, which is key for many biological processes, such as strengthening your immune system and bone development.

In addition, spending time outdoors can help your kids get a good night’s sleep. Contemporary children tend to suffer from sleep deprivation, likely due to the way they fill their downtime with electronic gadgets and television. Spending time outside can promote a deeper sleep for children by keeping them more alert during the day, lifting their moods, and helping to set their biological clocks in a better wake-sleep cycle.

As you send your kids to the park, remember the advice of your Clearwater optometrist: slather your kids with sunscreen to safeguard their skin and make sure they wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection to protect their vision. And don’t worry – sunglasses don’t block the benefits of sunlight.

Connection between sun and vision

The results of a large study conducted jointly by the USC Eye Institute and the NIH show that the rate of myopia among kids in America has more than doubled in the past 50 years! Even more dramatic are the statistics in Asia, where at least 90% of the population has been diagnosed with myopia, in contrast to only 10-20% 60 years ago. Why is this happening? Take a guess…. Yep! One primary reason is because kids are spending less time outdoors.

When kids stay inside watching television, swiping their phones, or clicking on their tablet, it stresses their eyes. They are only focusing on near objects, often in dim lighting with poor visual contrast and glare – all of which strain their eyes. Outdoors, children also relax their eye muscles by gazing into the distance.

Recent research explored the amount of time children spend outside in relation to nearsightedness. The study demonstrated that more time outside had a preventive effect for the onset of myopia. And if a child is already nearsighted, spending time outside can slow the progression of myopia.

Want to understand more about the science of eyes and vision? When kids play outside, they are exposed to UVB rays, which triggers the release of dopamine in the retina and circulates vitamin D in the body. Altogether, these processes help to protect their eyes against myopia. Natural light also appears to slow the axial growth of the eye, and it is precisely this type of growth that contributes to nearsightedness.

Balance indoor and outdoor time for kids

A healthy balance of spending time in the fresh air and staying safe from overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays is the rule to follow! Our Clearwater eye doctor encourages parents to set limits on screen time for kids, and to remember that kids learn by example. You can make outdoor time into a family event by playing sports, going to the park, gardening, or even strolling around the block together (with your sunglasses on, of course!).

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Dear Northwood Vision patient,

Here is what we are asking you to do to make a smaller exposure footprint:

  1. If you have any symptoms of loss of taste or smell, upset stomach/diarrhea coughing, fever, difficulty breathing, running nose please reschedule your appointment in 30 days or more.
  2. Wash your hands or use sanitizer immediately upon entering.
  3. Try not to touch any surfaces in the office you do not have to touch (you can push our door open with your foot! Try not to touch your face!)
  4. If you are trying on glasses, we will collect them from you for proper cleaning.
  5. Contact lenses can be shipped to you at no cost with an active rx (minimum 2 boxes)
  6. We will ask that if possible you come alone to the appointment. Guests can wait outside or in the car unless they need to be with you..
  7. If you have been exposed please wear a mask or reschedule in case you are an asymptomatic carrier, masks are encouraged to be worn by each patient if you have one.
  8. We will extend Contact lens prescriptions up to 6 months if recently expired and can direct ship an order to you if you see clearly and your eyes are feeling healthy.
  9. For a fee, we can ship your glasses to you if desired and you can have them adjusted after the shelter in place order is lifted.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during this stressful and trying time. May God bless each of you and keep you well.

Dr. Christopher K. Keats, OD

What is an Eye Emergency? Read more

Routine Care: “I see pretty well in my glasses or contact lenses. I just want to update my frame and / or get some new lenses to optimize my vision. I don’t have any pain or headaches and my eyes feel good and look normal in the mirror to me. I have never been told I have a disease in my eye that needs to be managed. I should definitely wait to come in until the “Shelter at Home” mandate is over. If I am a contact lens wearer, I understand Dr. Keats will allow me to get 3-6 months of contact lenses mailed to me even if my contact lenses are recently expired or close to expiring.”

Emergent Care: “I see poorly and am having difficulty functioning to drive, read, or see my computer. It is affecting my work. Waiting to be seen in 2 months would be very difficult for me to conduct my life.” Another form of emergent care… “I have other symptoms like headaches, red eyes, discharge, or I might have a disease that threatens my sight like diabetes, macular degeneration, glaucoma, a recent onset of flashes and floaters in my vision and so on.” A final type of emergent care would be a patient who realizes, “I am a patient who has a previously scheduled appointment for a medical condition Dr. Keats is managing to protect my sight, so I should plan on coming in for my visit. However, if my overall health is poor and the benefit to risk ratio says I should push this appointment off until the “Shelter at Home” mandate is lifted, it may be wise for me to reschedule for a later date.” In summary, emergent care means it is important that you be seen quickly for the protection of your visual health and current discomfort, or medical health, so you can function to do your work efficiently now and in the future.