Protecting Kids’ Eyes from Sun Damage


Should kids wear sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection?

Yes, reports the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Children and teens are vulnerable to UV rays because their eyes are not as developed as adults’ eyes. In fact, the ocular lens in youngsters cannot properly handle sunlight, so the sun can easily damage their retinas.

According to WebMD, only 58 percent of parents and caregivers have their children wear sunglasses on a regular basis. But exposure to sunlight has a cumulative effect, leading to the development of eye problems as people age, such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration or eye/eyelid cancer.

The average child takes in three times more sun annually than the average adult. Ophthalmologists estimate that by age 18, teens have experienced 25 percent of their lifetime exposure to the sun. And people with light-colored eyes are more prone to damage from UV rays.

The following situations can increase the potential for UV damage:

  • Water and sand – On sunny days, it’s especially important for kids (and adults) to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from harmful UV rays that reflect off the water and sand. In bright conditions, the risk is high for sunburned eyes, called photokeratitis.
  • Snow – During the winter, snow blindness can occur when the sun reflects off the snow. Symptoms may include eye pain, light sensitivity and temporary vision loss that can last from a few hours to two days.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the greatest risk for sunburn to the eyes is between 8-10 a.m. and 2-4 p.m. During these times, the sun shines at different angles and exposes the eyes to two times the amount of harmful UV rays.

Here are some tips for finding the perfect pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes.