On bright, sunny days, most adults wear sunglasses when they are outside or driving. However, how often do you see children wear sunglasses? It is rare, isn’t it? This should not be the case. Children need to protect their eyes just as much as adults, if not more. UV exposure can harm the eyes as well as the skin, and the cumulative effect of UV rays can be very damaging.
Many parents have good intentions. Of the 73 percent of adults who wear sunglasses, 58 percent of them encourage their children to wear sunglasses. This may last for a short time, but it is difficult to be consistent. Often, those sunglasses get lost or broken and are not replaced.
Children with blue eyes are at a greater risk for UV damage than children with brown eyes, so parents should be aware that blue eyes need vigilant protection. Especially on days at the beach where there is significant sun exposure, children are at risk for sunburn of the eyes. UV damage can come in many different forms and can lead to:
- Photokeratitis— Also known as sunburn of the eye or “snow blindness.” Photokeratitis can cause loss of vision for up to 48 hours.
- Cataracts— This progressive clouding of the lens of the eye can cause slow vision loss.
- Pterygium— Commonly known as “surfer’s eye,” this condition causes a growth (not cancerous) on the eye’s surface that can itch, swell and be bothersome. Surgery may be necessary to remove it, but the growth can return.
- Age-related macular degeneration— UV rays can damage the macula of the eye, which can blur vision and dull colors.
- Cancer— UV rays can cause cancer of the eye, eyelid or skin (Source: Web MD)
Here are some tips to help you make wearing sunglasses a habit for your children:
- Model good sunglass-wearing habits. Wear your sunglasses whenever you are outside. You may even consider wearing sunglasses on overcast days as UV rays can still do damage.
- Choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Also make sure that the glasses meet the American National Standards Institute’s requirements or block UV absorption up to 400 nanometers.
- Select polycarbonate lenses. These can take more “wear and tear” than other lenses, especially when your child plays sports.
- Let kids have a say. When you have found some sunglasses that meet these specifications let your children pick out the design of sunglasses that they like. They will be more likely to wear them if they like the frames.
- Glasses stay with Mom. Instead of letting your children be in charge of their own sunglasses, you keep the glasses in your possession so you can easily find the glasses when they are needed. This prevents the glasses from being lost, broken or forgotten (Source: Baby Center).
Following these tips will help protect your children’s eyes and instill positive habits for vision protection. If you have more questions about keeping your children’s eyes healthy, contact a physician in your area.