Did you know that eyes need protection from the damaging effects of the sun?
Both adults and children need to protect their eyes from UV rays. Children especially need eye protection because a child’s eye has greater potential risk for UV damage.
A child’s eye has a thin cornea and lens. These 2 parts, in the front of the eye, are responsible for being a natural UV “filter.” Until the cornea and lens fully develop, a greater percentage of UV rays is allowed to enter the eye.
In fact, a child’s lens will allow up to 70% more UV light to enter the eye, compared to an adult lens.
What is most concerning is that the effect of the sun’s damage is cumulative; it adds up over time. Eye damage beginning during childhood can lead to the development of cataracts, skin cancer around the eyes, photokeratitis (“eye sunburn”), and damage to the retina itself.
So, how can we protect our kids’ eyes?
They’ve gotta wear shades!
(Thank you, Timbuk3, for that 80s classic)
Here are some tips for sunglass success:
- Buy sunglasses from stores specializing in children’s eyewear. However, don’t confuse higher price with greater protection. Most high-priced child sunglasses are more fashion statement than function.
- Be sure the lens qualities are clearly indicated. Lenses should be 100% UV protective, and be marked as impact or shatter resistant.
- Know that UV protection is NOT related to the lens color. In other words, a darker lens does not necessarily provide better UV protection, and may actually be too dark for your child to see comfortably.
- Choose sunglass frames that fit your child’s face, and are large enough to protect the skin around the eye. The frames should be snug, but not too tight.
- Be especially vigilant to wear UV eye protection near water, and at the beach. Sun reflecting off water and sand can be intensified 20-fold. UV rays are also stronger at higher altitude and in tropical locations.
- Avoid the brightest rays of the day, usually 10AM to 4PM.
- Sunglasses work best when paired with a wide-brimmed hat.
For more information about sunglasses and sun protection for children, please see the following links:
American Optometric Association – sunglass buying guide
Kidshealth.org – outdoor sun safety
US Environmental Protection Agency – how to prevent eye damage