Eye Care & Protection
Protecting Young Eyes
Only 7.4 percent of American adults report their child(ren) "always" wears sunglasses. And up to 13.4 percent report they use "nothing" to protect their child(ren)'s eyes and surrounding skin from the sun's UV rays. This could be endangering children's vision health.
Kids, who generally receive three times the annual sun exposure of adults, are at risk for developing serious vision damage later in life without regular UV-eye protection. Research has shown that their young eyes are especially susceptible to UV-related harm. Unlike the mature lens of an adult eye, a child's ocular lens cannot effectively filter out UV rays, so more radiation reaches the retina. In fact, early signs of pterygia, a growth on the eye that can affect vision, may be seen even in young children. Because damage starts early, parents need to be more aggressive in protecting their children's eyes.
UV Rays Are Reflective
Wearing hats and playing in shaded areas help to reduce UV exposure, but they are not a substitute for the protection achieved by wearing sunglasses, because UV rays can reflect off a variety of surfaces. This reflected UV light is virtually just as damaging as direct UV. Sunglasses that offer both UVA and UVB protection is the best way to filter out harmful radiation from a child's sensitive eyes. Examples of different surfaces and the percentage of UV light they reflect include:
For many parents, convincing their children to wear sunglasses can be difficult. Below are a few tips for improving the chances that they will wear their shades:
- Have your child pick out a pair they like, so they may be more inclined to actually wear them;
- Purchase sunglasses from a reputable retailer. Inexpensive party favors or holiday-themed shades are not always UV-protective and can have defects in the lens or frames that make them uncomfortable;
- Consider purchasing sunglasses with polarized lenses to eliminate glare. This may have a more immediately beneficial effect, making your child more likely to keep wearing the glasses;
- Check out clip-on sunglasses for kids who wear prescription lenses;
- Make sure the sunglasses fit your child(ren) comfortably. Sunglasses that pinch or are scratched are less likely to be worn.
Regardless of the style, make sure children's sunglasses are UVA/UVB protective to protect young eyes from the sun's rays.
Learn more about what to look for when choosing sunglasses specifically for children.
Explore the topic of UV exposure and sun damage more in depth.