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Health Capsules: Aug. 9

Progress West Hospital’s new NICU unit will provide state-of-the-art care for premature infants in the O’Fallon area.

NICU opens at Progress West Hospital

Progress West Hospital in O’Fallon recently debuted a Newborn Intensive Care Unit within its Childbirth Center. The unit, staffed with a team of neonatologists, pediatricians and maternal fetal medicine specialists from Washington University and St. Louis Children’s Hospital, enables the hospital to provide care for premature babies born as early as 32 weeks’ gestation. It features eight newborn ICU beds and offers state-of-the-art technology, as well as a unique layout that promotes family-centered care.

“We are so excited to be able to keep complicated infants and premature infants right here in St. Charles County – closer to their parents and extended families,” said Dr. Cassandra Pruitt, a Washington University associate professor of pediatrics and pediatric medical director for Progress West Hospital.

Having young children’s vision examined before they start school this fall is important for their eye health as well as their academic success.

Focus on children’s eye health

With most area students returning to school later this month – which coincides with National Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month – the American Academy of Ophthalmology [AAO] has issued a reminder to parents to have their children’s eyes professionally examined. Although it is recommended that vision testing begin around age 3 or 4, the AAO estimates that about 80 percent of preschool-aged children have not received this critical exam.

According to the AAO, children’s developing vision is susceptible to many common problems, including refractive errors [nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism], amblyopia [lazy eye], strabismus [crossed eyes] and colorblindness, as well as injuries and infection. If diagnosed early, most of these conditions can be treated successfully and vision can be restored. If the condition is not diagnosed until later in life, however, treatment may not be as effective.

Untreated eye problems also can significantly impact children’s early learning. A child may struggle in school, have difficulty with reading or be perceived as less intelligent than he or she actually is.

In addition to obvious signs like crossed eyes, common indicators of early vision problems for parents and caregivers to be aware of include frequent eye-rubbing or squinting; tilting or turning the head to look at objects; difficulty paying attention to faraway objects; inability to distinguish colors; or lack of interest in reading. Well before the preschool years, signs of vision problems in infants may include not demonstrating eye contact in the first two months; not smiling or demonstrating awareness of their hands by three months; not reaching for toys at six months; or not recognizing faces by 11 months.

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Note: Protecting children’s eyes will be especially important later this month, during the Great American Solar Eclipse on Aug. 21. [Mid Rivers Newsmagazine covered area preparations for the eclipse, and safety precautions for viewing it, in the July 5 issue.]

The AAO states that only solar-viewing or eclipse glasses that meet the current international standard [ISO 12312-2] are safe for viewing the eclipse – these are available online as well as at a number of area retail stores.

Even if a child is wearing solar-viewing glasses, the AAO guidelines add, viewing the eclipse through a device that magnifies the sun’s rays – like a camera lens, binoculars or a telescope – also can result in serious eye damage if the device is not equipped with its own solar filter, as the sun actually can melt an unfiltered lens.

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