Protect Your Eyes During the COVID-19 “Stay-at-Home” Mandate

At a time when we are spending more time sheltering at home as part of efforts to protect public health as we combat the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are glued to our smart phones, tablets and laptops for work, school, information and entertainment.

But, did you know spending too much time staring at such devices can cause eye strain that can actually lead to pain, discomfort and, for young children, may actually result in near-sightedness?

John Shan, chief of optometry, Kaiser Permanente Panorama City Medical Center, has some advice.

“What’s important is to give your eyes some rest from prolonged staring at electronic devices,” he said.

“Just like any other muscle in the body, if you overexert your eyes, you’re likely to experience a strain. When your eyes get strained, you’ll likely start to get headaches, blink less and eventually dry out your eyes. As a result, they may excessively tear, turn red and lead to discomfort and increase more risk for infection.”

That is why for adults and children alike, it’s important to take regular breaks from staring at devices such as laptops and smart phones.

To help protect your eyesight, Shan recommends abiding by the 20/20/20 rule.

“Every 20 minutes, as a general rule of thumb, take a 20-second break, and look out 20 feet,” he explained. “We want you to look far away, because then your eye muscle gets a chance to relax. It gives your eye muscle a little time to recoup and avoid problems later on.”

Shan cautioned that prolonged close-up staring at electronic devices can be especially harmful for young children ages 5-11. Because they are still developing, it can increase their risk of developing myopia, or near sightedness, he warned.

“Take good care of your eyes, and they will take good care of you,” Shan said. “Don’t’ take your vision for granted.”

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