Guard Kids’ Eyes from Summer Sun

Recognizing Sun Safety Week, June 6-10, 2011

Sun and Eye care & sunburn

Ah, summer! Many kids dream all school year of summer vacation, anticipating fun hours in the sun swimming, participating in sports activities, fishing, biking, skateboarding or playing with friends.

While parents may remember to apply sunscreen to protect their kids’ skin before sending them outdoors, they may forget to protect their eyes with sunglasses that minimize the harmful effects of the sun. A hat may help, but nothing protects the eyes like sunglasses. They also guard against foreign debris and can be a fun fashion statement.

How often do you see kids wearing sunglasses? Most kids consider them a nuisance, an extra thing that gets in their way while playing. According to the American Optometric Association, kids need to wear protective sunglasses because their eyes are still developing. Their corneas and lenses are more transparent and let in higher levels UV radiation, placing them at greater risk of experiencing eye sunburned eyes, known as photokeratitis.

When kids’ eyes are repeatedly exposed to small amounts of UV radiation over many years, they have an increased likelihood of damaging the retina (the lining of the eye used for seeing) or developing cataracts, which can occur at any time, not just when they are older. And if their eyes are repeatedly exposed to significant amounts of UV radiation during their lifetime, they may be at increased risk of macular degeneration as they age, a condition that can result in vision loss.

Finding the Best Sunglasses for Kids
Let’s face it, most kids are more focused on playing than taking care of their sunglasses. While parents don’t need to spend a lot of money, the sunglasses should meet these criteria:

  • Secure fit – Look for a sunglass style that fits close to the eyes and wraps around the sides to block out sunlight
  • UV protection – The sunglasses also must have a UV or UVR (ultraviolet radiation) sticker on the lens to ensure the sunglasses meet American National Standards Institute’s requirements for ultimate protection against the sun’s ultraviolet rays
  • Uniform lenses – Check to ensure the lenses match in color and are free of distortions; look through the lenses at a straight line, and if the line is curved or imprecise, find a different pair
  • Velcro straps – Younger kids may need sunglasses with a Velcro strap to keep them in place while playing

Protect Vision for Life
For ultimate eye protection, parents should schedule regular appointments for an eye exam to have their kids’ vision checked. Comprehensive eye exams are important to monitor eye health, sustain good vision, monitor UV radiation protection needs, and stay updated on advances in eye and sunglass protection.

If your kids regularly wear sunglasses when spending time outdoors, how do you encourage them to keep them on? – Scott Delisi, Ameritas Group