KATHMANDU: Homemade kajal is something that Nepalis grow up putting on the eyes. Almost everyone’s mother must have put those thick black kajal on their child’s eyes — Amy Winehouse-style — as it is believed that putting kajal will make the child’s eyes healthy, black and big. But is this a truth or a myth?
“It’s an absolute a myth and unfortunately a common practice in Nepal. Carbon present in the kajal will block tears, usually mothers’ hands are not cleaned properly leading to conjunctivitis in young ones, as mothers have long nails that can scratch the pupil leading to corneal ulcer. Also the shape, size and colour of eyes are completely dependent on genetics, you cannot change it,” explains Dr Narayani Shrestha, senior ophthalmologist and the first woman eye surgeon of Nepal.
Apart from the aforementioned facts, there are other things that need to be understood. Like a newborn cannot see as “the eyeballs aren’t completely developed”. When s/he is three to six months old, s/he starts perceiving light and can see mother’s face slightly. When the child is two years old, his/her eyes will completely develop and “can see like an adult”.
With this you also need to look out for certain signs. Dr Shrestha instructs to notice whether the child follows light and colourful objects or not with his/her eyes. “If s/he doesn’t, then you should consult a doctor, don’t wait,” she warns. Also if you notice pupil as white, brown or if it appears like red eye like a cat, “immediately take the child to a doctor”. If the pupil is white or brown, there is a doubt of infantile cataract and the red eye is “very dangerous”, it is eye cancer called retinoblastoma.
If your child is a squint, you ought to be concerned, not because of how s/he looks. “Eyes become squint because the child cannot see properly and tries hard to look at things, which results in such eyes,” warns Dr Shrestha.
Another important aspect is wearing power glasses. A child of two or three months may also need to wear specs. Dr Shrestha explains a usual trend with an example of a mother who came for check-up for her three-month-old child. “After check-up it was determined that the child needs to wear specs as the power was –5. The mother was shocked and was doubtful that the child perhaps doesn’t need specs. She was also concerned that it will be impossible to make the child wear those specs. Initially the child would try and remove the specs as it was new, but gradually the child realised without that, it won’t be possible to see. This was evident when the child was given bath it would hold the specs tight protesting to let go.”
The point of this example is to make people aware that it’s okay even for a child of very age to wear spectacles. But a periodic check-up is a must as with growing age the refractive power keeps changing. Also wearing spectacles should be continuous. “It is vital to understand that eyes mature at the age of two. So sooner the parents take the child for a check-up, the better.”
In case you are wondering about contact lenses, stop the thought. “It is very risky, I wouldn’t recommend it. Glasses are the best,” asserts Dr Shrestha.
Diet and more
The most common complaint is that your child never watches TV from a distance. If you have this concern and think because of this your child’s eyesight is affected, then you are mistaken. “This is because the child cannot see properly that’s why prefers to sit near the TV, not otherwise. Parents don’t know this as they are ignorant and believe their child perhaps is stubborn,” explains Dr Shrestha.
So if you ever notice such habit, make sure to visit a doctor. “Also make a regular habit for your child’s periodic eye check-up.”
Coming to the diet, carrots are believed to be good for eyesight and Dr Shrestha says that it is generally good for health, “but it cannot be a substitute for refractive error”. Nonetheless, a balanced diet is essential for a child. “Unfortunately, parents don’t know about a proper balanced diet in Nepal,” adds Dr Shrestha and further states “when a child starts with solid food, s/he should be given carbohydrate, protein, minerals, vitamins and some amount of fat content diet in a day”.
Carbohydrate gives energy, protein is good for bones and overall development. There are two types of protein — animal protein like milk, meat, egg and fish, and vegetable protein such as vegetables (tarkari) and beans (geda gudi). “As animal protein cannot be afforded by all daily, giving this once a week is enough.” Milk on the other hand should be given daily, twice a day. “Never give them tea however.” Green leafy vegetables are also a must with seasonal fruits plus water. “If you are worried about adulteration, then cook the food in a pressure cooker and feed the child,” advises Dr Shrestha.
If you make a habit to feed your child with these essential nutrients from the beginning, s/he won’t be reluctant to eat it later. So it’s up to you!