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Healthy Habits

Seven Tips to Help Prevent Eye Strain

Learn 7 tips to help prevent eye strain during distance learning and beyond.
4 min read
October 1, 2020
Dr. Jill Lundstrom
Board-Certified Pediatrician
Dr. Jill earned her MD at the University of Massachusetts. She believes that all children deserve access to quality healthcare to learn and thrive.

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As the summer comes to a close, most kids would normally be heading back to campus for their first day of school. This year, things may look a little different as many students begin classes virtually from home.

Parents are aware of the many challenges that come with distance learning. This may include trouble focusing, adjusting to changes in the learning environment, and kids simply missing their friends and teachers. Children also may express eye discomfort from an increase of screen time during distance learning. Eye strain may mean dry and irritated eyes, blurry vision, eye-watering, and even headaches.

What Causes Eye Strain?

When both adults and children look at screens, they blink less often, leaving the eyes tired and dry. And when people focus at the same distance for a long time, it can cause their vision to blur temporarily and the eyes to tire, which can cause headaches.  

Children may not be able to describe these symptoms to parents and may seem irritable and unable to focus after a session of online learning. Luckily, there are things we can do to create Eye-Friendly Virtual Classrooms.

Here are seven easy tips to make sure eye strain isn’t a stumbling block for distance learning:

1. Set the screen at the right place.
Measure the distance between the screen and your student’s eyes while he or she is sitting. It should be between 20-30 inches away.

2. Follow the 20-20-20 Rule.
Set a timer every 20-minutes to remind your child to look away from the screen, ideally at an object 20 feet away, for 20-seconds.

3. Rethink your screen-time rules.
Now that your child is being asked to use screens a lot more for school, it may be time to reconsider screen time rules across phones, TV, and video games. Try making recreational screen time a group activity, like calling family on Zoom, hosting a game night with friends, or watching a movie together. This will allow you to monitor these activities, and gauge what’s working.  

4. Turn off electronic devices at least one hour before bed.
Screen time right before bed can have an impact on sleep. To help make sure your kids get a good night of rest, try setting a digital curfew for your family.

5. Adjust the screen so that there is no tilt.
Looking straight at the screen without needing to adjust eyes downward can help reduce strain.

6. Turn down the brightness and turn up the contrast on your screen settings.
Match the screen brightness to your child’s workspace brightness. A good rule is to look at a white background on your child’s screen, and if it shines like a light source in the room, it’s too bright. If it seems gray, it’s probably too dark.

7. Clean the computer screen at least once a week.
Dust on the screen can cause additional strain when your child is trying to read words or focus on images through the layer of dust.

This is a stressful time for everyone. We are using electronic devices now more than ever to stay connected to school, work, family, and friends. When you can, try to take at least 30 to 60 minutes every day to be outside, play, and exercise.

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A father was concerned when his son was showing COVID-19 symptoms. His school uses Hazel, so he was able to contact a Hazel doctor from home.

The Hazel provider recommended he get a COVID-19 test and shared resources to help find a testing center in their area. The father was eager to help his son feel better and appreciated being able to quickly get answers and advice.
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A student came into the nurse's office with a sprained ankle. After icing her foot, she still was in pain, so the nurse called Hazel. Thankfully, her family had provided consent for over-the-counter pain relief because she was able to take some medicine and return to class feeling better.

After the visit, the Hazel provider reached out to the school nurse to check on the student’s injury. The nurse shared that the student’s ankle was improving, and she appreciated the follow-up.
Parent Story
A mother noticed her son was getting low on his asthma medication. She tried to schedule a visit with his doctor to refill his prescription, but no appointments were available. She didn’t want her son to run out of medicine, so she reached out to Hazel.

The provider was able to send the refill to a local pharmacy within one day. The mother was happy that her son would have the medicine he needed. She was also amazed at how easy and fast the entire process was.
Student Story
A student was coughing and sneezing a lot, but her family wasn’t sure if she was sick or had allergies. Thankfully, her school used Hazel, and they could get an answer.

After talking with the school nurse and the Hazel provider about her symptoms and medical history, the student was happy to find out it was likely allergies. She got some medicine and returned to class feeling better.
Student Story
During the pandemic, a high school student was having a hard time coping. She was sad about COVID-19 impacting her senior year, and she was worried about the state of the world. The student was also struggling with some personal conflicts, and she felt she didn't have the right support at home. After discussing her feelings, a Hazel doctor connected her with resources that she described as “life-changing.” She was very grateful and shared that she didn't know where to go for help before Hazel.
Parent Story
Shortly after COVID-19 began, a student began to develop tics. Her parents took her to a neurologist, but they wanted to get her into counseling as well. The student’s mother was having a hard time finding answers to her questions and didn’t know where to start the process, so she turned to Hazel.

The Hazel doctor listened as the mother shared her concerns and frustrations. Hazel reassured her that they would find the right services for her child. After the initial visit, the Hazel doctor partnered with the school counselor and the student’s mother to identify resources and counseling services that are a good fit.
Student Story
A student came into the nurse’s office because his vision went blurry. The Hazel doctor looked at his eyes, but he did not see any injury. As he asked him questions about his symptoms, he started to sense that he was down about something. After a few minutes, the student shared that he was really sad because his mom was recently diagnosed with cancer. He explained that he feels worried, and it’s hard for him to focus.

Hazel called home, and the student’s mother confirmed her diagnosis. They discussed how to help manage the child’s stress, and Hazel offered to connect the child with counseling resources through the school. The mother was very grateful for the guidance and was eager to get her child help during a stressful time.
Counselor Story
Hazel Health has been integral this year in getting our students the mental health services needed to help them live healthy lives.  The staff has been attentive, prompt, and resourceful. There is an evident sense of caring for the work they do and the students they serve. It has been a pleasure partnering with Hazel Health in providing mental wellness for our Garland ISD families.