While many adults know sunglasses are more than just a trendy fashion statement and wear them to protect their eyes, they sometimes forget that it’s even more imperative that their children start wearing sunglasses at an early age as well.
When going to the pool or the beach, parents are always sure to lather their children in sunscreen to protect their skin from being burnt, but they seem to forget that their eyes need just as much protection from the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays.
In fact, your eyes are considered to be ten times more susceptible to sun damage than your skin!
Studies show that by the age of 18, children absorb 80% of their lifetime exposure to ultraviolet light. This is because the eyelids and skin surrounding the eyes of children are considerably more sensitive than adults as they are still growing.
Similarly, their cornea, lens, and fluids are more clear, allowing more light into the retina. Their pupils are also proportionally bigger than adult eyes, which let more light come in and to deeper levels.
For all these reasons, by not wearing sunglasses, they are at a far greater risk of damaging their eyes at an early age.
What Are UV Rays?
UV rays come in two forms, and you should be sure to protect yourself from both of them:
- UVA – long waves that penetrate deep tissue layers. It is most associated with aging the skin. It can penetrate the cornea and harm the lens. UVA can cause cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
- UVB – shorter waves that are absorbed more on the surface. It is responsible for sunburns and skin cancer. It’s mostly absorbed by the cornea but can still cause cataracts.
Ultraviolet rays exponentially damage your eyes over time, so protecting your children early on puts them at an advantage, lessening the possibility of eye problems in the future. Even on overcast days it is important to wear sunglasses as UV rays can still cause damage.
With that in mind, you should really start protecting your children’s eyes early on.
8 Potential Problems Brought By UV Rays
Some potential sun-related problems include:
- Cataracts – Progressively clouding the eye’s lens, letting less light in, making it harder to see.
- Age-related macular degeneration – Can blur vision and dull colors by damaging the eye’s macula – the central area of the retina.
- Photokeratitis – Otherwise known as “snow blindness,” where UV rays cause temporary blindness from reflecting off sand or snow.
- Pterygium – Sometimes referred to “surfer’s eye,” a non-cancerous lesion that is brought on by prolonged exposure to UV rays.
- Pinguecela – The thickening of the white of the eye, causing the appearance of a yellow bump.
- Glaucoma – Increased pressure inside the eye, which can lead to optic nerve damage or blindness.
- Cancer – UV can even cause cancer in the eye, eyelid, or surrounding skin.
- Exfoliation Syndrome – Dandruff-like flakes form within the eye, which can clog the eye’s natural drains if they build up too much, leading to other problems. This is the most common cause of secondary open-angle glaucoma and secondary closed-angle glaucoma. Those with exfoliation syndrome are six times more likely to get glaucoma than those who don’t have it. It is also linked to both cataracts and macular degeneration.
When to Start Wearing Sunglasses
Realistically, infants younger than 6 months old shouldn’t have any exposure to the sun. When going out, be sure to cover them whenever possible either by the shade of a stroller or other available means.
Once they are 6 months old, you should start putting them in sunglasses.
By three years old, if they aren’t wearing sunglasses yet, they should start wearing them.
Choosing the Right Sunglasses
When purchasing sunglasses for your child you should consider the following factors:
● Don’t Get Toy Sunglasses – Of course there are always the cute cartoon character sunglasses at the toy store, but these are NOT what you want. They likely have little to no UV protection. Get your kids some proper sunglasses that protect them.
● UV Blockage – The sunglasses should block 99 to 100% of both UVA (long length) and UVB (short length) rays. If a pair of sunglasses doesn’t indicate any amount of UV blockage, they aren’t right for your child. It’s also important to realize the difference between how dark the lens shade is and how much UV protection there is. Just because they’re darker it doesn’t mean they protect you more. In fact, dark sunglasses can potentially be more harmful at times as they can cause the pupil to dilate and let more UV rays in. Also, consider wraparound glasses that protect as much of the skin as possible.
● Child’s Play Proof Lenses – Kids are wild, they run around, they jump, they play. At some point their glasses are going to fall off. Find some sturdy lenses that help reflect your child’s lifestyle. Ideally you want polycarbonate lenses that are scratch proof and impact resistant that won’t pop out of the frame. Similarly, you should get frames that are relatively flexible and won’t break. Make sure they fit securely on your child’s face. Unless your doctor recommends glass lenses, your best bet is going with plastic.
● Kid’s Choice – Let your kids choose what sunglasses they want. We all know they don’t like doing what they’re told. If you let them choose what sunglasses to wear, they will more likely actually wear them.
Be a good role model. As much as kids don’t like doing what they’re told, they do like to be like their parents. Set a good example for them and wear sunglasses yourself. This way you’re not just protecting your own eyes, but making sure your child protects his as well.
Remember, there’s no need to get the coolest, trendiest sunglasses on the market. In the end, what’s important is that you find sunglasses that protect your child early on. They only get one set of eyes, so you want to treat them right from the get go.