The secret to beating short-sightedness in children

The secret to beating short-sightedness in childrenIncreasing exposure to outdoor light is the key to reducing the myopia (short-sightedness) epidemic in children, according to ground-breaking new research by Australian optometrists.

Optometrist and lead researcher on the project, Associate Professor Scott Read, who is the director of research at QUT’s School of Optometry and Vision Science, said that children need to spend more than an hour and preferably at least two hours a day outside to help prevent myopia from developing and progressing.

Assoc. Prof. Read explains it was not ‘near work’ on computer and other screens causing myopia, but a lack of adequate outdoor light. While screens are contributing to children spending more time indoors than in previous years, the research shows they are not the direct cause of the increased incidence of myopia.

“Optometrists need to make their patients aware that less than 60 minutes’ exposure to light outdoors per day is a risk factor for myopia,” he said. “It looks like even for those with myopia already, increasing time outside is likely to reduce progression.”

President of Optometry Australia, Kate Gifford said “this new finding is of significant importance in our endeavour to mitigate the growing rate of myopia in children.”

In February, it was announced that half the world’s population will be short-sighted by 2050 with many at risk of blindness. The global study, published by the Brien Holden Vision Institute, forecasts that 10 per cent of the world’s population will be at risk of blindness by 2050 if steps aren’t taken to stop myopia turning into high myopia (requiring glasses with a prescription of minus 5 or stronger).

The QUT study measured children’s eye growth via study participants wearing wristwatch light sensors to record light exposure and physical activity for a fortnight during warmer then colder months to give an overall measurement of their typical light exposure.

“Children exposed to the least outdoor light had faster eye growth and hence faster myopia progression,” Professor Read said.

“The work of Scott Read and his colleagues is an exciting development and the onus is now on optometrists to help spread the message of the one-hour-a-day prescription of outdoor light,” Mrs Gifford said.

For more information on optometry services in Australia, including finding your local optometrist, visit

Prepared by a press release from Optometry Australia


Breakfast is essential for kids

The Dietitians Association is Australia is calling on parents to make eating breakfast ‘non-negotiable’ for school-aged children after recent research highlighted the huge pitfalls for students who start school hungry.

The research, released by Foodbank, found teachers noticed most students who skipped breakfast had low energy levels and difficulty concentrating 1.

It also showed three children in every classroom were arriving at school hungry or without breakfast, and for many of these students, this happened more than three times a week1.

Breakfast is essential for kids

Porridge and fruit is an excellent breakfast.

These alarming figures are something nutrition experts do not find surprising.

Kate Di Prima, Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, said skipping breakfast will make children feel ‘fuzzy’ in the head and lethargic because their brains are being starved of energy.

‘The brain requires energy in the form of glucose to function at its best throughout the day. Nutritious breakfast foods such as grainy bread, breakfast cereals, fruit and milk provide healthy sources of glucose.

‘A healthy breakfast gives kids the right fuel to start the day, helping them to fully participate in class and achieve the best grades possible,’ said Ms Di Prima, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

In fact, research shows eating breakfast to be linked with an improvement in literacy and numeracy skills in school children, potentially impacting their long-term employment options2.

‘Breakfast should not be optional for school children. To put it simply, their growth and development depends on getting enough of the right nutrients – and without breakfast, they will really struggle to get their daily quota,’ said Ms Di Prima.

She said the best breakfast for growing children is one that is high in fibre, contains low Glycaemic Index options, and includes protein.

Top options for a brain-boosting breakfast

Breakfast is essential for kids

Scrambled egg on wholegrain toast is a perfect start to the day.

  • Wholegrain cereal with reduced-fat milk, topped with fresh fruit.
  • Wholegrain toast (or if time is tight, a sandwich made the night before) with reduced-fat cheese, avocado and tomato, and a piece of fruit.
  • Wholemeal muffin or crumpet with baked beans and a low-fat yoghurt.
  • Poached or scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast with a glass of reduced-fat milk.
  • A smoothie made from reduced-fat milk, fresh fruit and yoghurt.


1 Foodbank, 2015, Hunger in the Classroom: Foodbank Report 2015, viewed 25 Jun 2015

2O’Dea J & Mugridge AC (2012). ‘Nutritional quality of breakfast and physical activity independently predict the literacy and numeracy scores of children after adjusting for socioeconomic status’, Health Education Research. pp. 1-11, viewed 26 June 2015.

Based on a press release from the Dietitians Association of Australia 7/7/15

Top tips to beat the germs

Top tips to beat germsWe know germs are around, but because we can’t see them, it’s very easy to be complacent — until we get sick!

Did you know that germs are actually animals? Germs are microscopic beings that can cause all kinds of diseases and illnesses in humans. The two main types of germs are viruses and bacteria. It’s important to note however, that not all bacteria are harmful. In fact, some of them help the body to work properly.

Germs are found in most places and can be spread in a number of different ways:

  • through the air (via coughing and sneezing)
  • person to person (via touch, sharing personal items or through bodily fluids)
  • via contaminated food or objects (germs can be transmitted by other people or animals to the food we eat and the things we touch).

While we cannot always prevent the spread of germs, there are positive steps we can take to beat the spread of germs.

  1. The most important way to halt germs in their tracks is to wash your hands using liquid soap and water. When washing, ensure you wash the front and back of your hands. Rinse in warm water and dry thoroughly with a paper towel, or hand dryer. Using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser is a good option when soap and water is not available.
    You should always wash your hands after using the toilet, changing a nappy, coughing into your hands or blowing your nose. You should also wash them before, during and after preparing food and before you eat.
  2. It’s important that you cover your mouth when sneezing and coughing to prevent germs becoming airborne and being passed onto others. Always sneeze and cough into a tissue, rather than your hands, and wash your hands after using tissues.
  3. If you are unwell, avoid contact with others and stay at home when you are sick. When you are sick, you should avoid shaking hands, hugging and kissing other people and avoid preparing food for others. And don’t be a martyr and go into work. Not only will you slow your recovery, but you will spread your germs further afield.
  4. You must always take care when preparing food because the spread of germs from the kitchen is quite common. A few key points include washing your hands before preparing food, avoiding food past its use-by-date, keeping raw and cooked meat separate, cooking food thoroughly and storing food at the correct temperatures.
  5. Don’t forget your home may be harbouring all kinds of nasty germs, so make sure you practice good hygiene in your home. Clean and disinfect bathrooms and toilets at least once a week, wash towels and sheets in hot water, wipe up any spills immediately, throw out sponges and dishcloths regularly and never use the same one for floor spills and washing the dishes! You should also clean your rubbish bin and refrigerator once a week to prevent the spread of germs.

So don’t be complacent when it comes to germs. Do your bit to stop them in their tracks.

Further information

The Department of Health 

Can you go a day without your favourite food, for charity?

Ausee top 8 challengeChances are, you or someone you know suffers from a food allergy. But imagine for a moment, being allergic to most foods.

For some Australians this is a reality. Those suffering from eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders (EGID) have to live with severely limited diets, making their life difficult socially, emotionally and physically.

EGIDS occur when higher-than-normal amounts of eosinophils (pronounced ee-oh-sin-oh fills) are found in the gastrointestinal tract. These types of white blood cells can accumulate in the gut in response to allergens (food and/or airborne), and may cause inflammation and tissue damage.

Common side effects may include difficulty eating and swallowing, poor appetite, nausea or vomiting, reflux, abdominal or chest pain, sleeping difficulties, diarrhoea, pain in lower limbs, general illnesses (e.g. ear infections, croup, migraines, fevers and colds) and sometimes behavioural changes in children.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for EGID. Management involves removing the top 8 common allergenic foods:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Soy
  • Shellfish.

However, you can help make a difference to the lives of people with EGID.

This week is National EOS Week, run by the charitable organisation ausEE Inc. The aim is to raise awareness of eonsinophilic gastrointestinal disorders and to raise funds to help support those who suffer.

The week will culminate with Friday’s Top 8 Challenge, where Australians are encouraged to avoid all of the top 8 common allergenic foods for one meal or the whole day, and don8 to help the work of ausEE.

You can register to take the Top 8 Challenge at

So why not get creative in the kitchen this week and help your fellow Aussies who don’t get to enjoy the wide variety of foods that most of us do.


Further information:

National EOS Awareness Week 

Top 8 Challenge


Fruit and veggies for life

fruit and vegMost of us don’t have any trouble eating carbohydrates such as bread, cereal and pasta. In fact some of us can actually afford to eliminate some of the carbs we eat (e.g. cake, biscuits, pastries). And for most of us, getting enough protein isn’t too much trouble either.

However, when it comes to fruits and veggies, research suggests that most of us only eat half of what is recommended for good health.

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends we eat at least two serves of fruit and five serves of veggies every day.

Fruits and veggies have a range of health benefits. The contain dietary fibre which aids digestion, keeps you regular, helps keep you full and may help protect you from a range of health problems such as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and some gastrointestinal diseases

They also contain many vitamins and nutrients that our body needs to function properly. The best strategy is to eat a wide range of differently coloured fruits and vegetables, to ensure your intake of important vitamins and minerals is sufficient.

So how can you increase your intake?

If you haven’t been eating the recommended amount, then you should probably gradually increase your intake, along with lots of water. It’s important that you drink water to help your body digest the extra fibre that you are consuming. Some tips on adding extra fruits and veggies to your daily menu include:

  • Breakfast: cereal with fruit; or eggs with spinach, tomato and mushrooms
  • Snack: fruit and/or vegetable smoothie; try adding cucumber or spinach to boost your veggie intake
  • Lunch: grilled chicken with a large salad; or vegetable soup and a multigrain roll
  • Snack: veggie sticks with hummus or cottage cheese
  • Dinner: stir-fry with lots of coloured veggies and protein of your choice; finish with some yoghurt and fresh fruit.

To make it a family affair, get the kids involved by offering them a choice in which veggies they would like to eat for dinner. Why not ask them for ideas on how to prepare them. Better yet, get them to choose one fruit and one vegetable for the week, and ask them to find a recipe using the food of their choice.

If your children are a little young to be actively involved, why not make their fruits and veggies fun by using cookie cutters to cut shapes, or cut it up and serve it with yoghurt and honey.

With a little bit of creative thinking, you’ll be daily quota of fruits and five vegetables in no time.

The facts about head lice

head liceWith the kids back at school, there may be some little unwelcome visitors popping up at your house in the next couple of months.

That’s right. The dreaded head lice.

Head lice are harmless creatures but usually make people squirm. They are tiny, wingless insects that live on the hair found on human heads and necks.

They are about the size of a sesame seed and can vary in colour from cream to dark brown. They can be incredibly hard to see on the hair.

Female lice lay their eggs on the base of the hair shaft. These eggs are called nits and they are a creamy white colour. After 7-10 days, the eggs hatch. Within two weeks, they are mature enough to lay eggs themselves.

How to spot eggs

Eggs or nits are easier to spot than the lice themselves. They are about the size of a pinhead and stick to the base of the hair, near the scalp. They differ from dandruff in that they are hard to remove. However, your child may exhibit signs of head lice before you even spot them, as they can become quite itchy.

How to treat head lice

There are many treatments available to get rid of head lice, so speak to your pharmacist about which one is suitable for you. Some preparations are gentler than others and suit those with a sensitive skin and scalp.

You can treat head lice using:

  • Conditioner and comb method — the conditioner stuns the lice which allows you to comb them out with a fine metal comb, designed to remove lice and eggs. This does not kill lice or eggs
  • Chemical or herbal treatments — these are designed to kill the lice and eggs. The preparation is left in the hair for a period of time (depending upon the treatment), and then washed out. After the hair has been conditioned, you use a fine metal comb, (head lice comb), to comb out the dead lice and eggs.

The important thing is that you MUST do a follow-up treatment within 7-10 days, as one treatment cannot kill all lice and eggs at once. You should also soak all brushes and combs in head lice solution.

It is also a good idea to wash pillow-cases, hats and towels. Heat will kill any eggs and lice, so washing them in water above 60 degrees Celsius or putting them through a dryer will do the trick.

Preventing head lice

There is no fool-proof way to prevent head lice. While the lice cannot jump or fly, they can crawl from head to head. Young children who are in close contact with one another are most at risk of contracting them.

Children with long hair should wear it tied back. There are some products on the market that are designed to deter head lice, so once again, ask your pharmacist about these.

If you find head lice on your child, it is your responsibility to treat them. You should also notify your child’s school or pre-school so that other parents can check their children’s hair.

Health Department guidelines regarding when a child can return to school following an outbreak of lice vary from state to state, so check with your school or pre-school.

Further information can be found at the following Department of Health websites:


New South Wales

Victoria and Tasmania

South Australia,+skills+and+learning/Health,+wellbeing+and+special+needs/Health+conditions/Headlice

Western Australia

Northern Territory