It’s well known that making sure your child has plenty of sunscreen to shield their skin from the sun. What parents may not be aware of, however, is that their eyes need equal protection from ultraviolet rays.
Sunglasses are more than just a fashion accessory. The truth is that just like sunscreen, sunglasses play a crucial role in protecting the eyes of your children, ensuring their visual health remains vibrant and unharmed.
Kids’ Eyes Are More Vulnerable to UV Rays
Compared to adults, children’s eyes are much more susceptible to UV damage for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason for this is that children tend to spend more time outdoors than adults. Whether it’s a day at the beach or after-school sport, these outdoor activities result in heightened exposure to UV rays.
Australia has some of the highest UV intensity in the world, with the potential to cause sunburn in as little as 11 minutes. As our eyes can also become sunburnt by UV rays, it is important to protect them with sunglasses when possible.
The physiological makeup of a child’s eye adds to this vulnerability. Their younger lenses are not yet fully developed and are more transparent than those of adults. This transparency results in up to 70% more exposure to harmful UV radiation compared to adults. Children with lighter-coloured eyes, such as blue and green, are more susceptible to UV rays. Considering these factors, it becomes clear why there are many benefits of sunglasses for children.
The Long-Term Effects of UV Exposure
It is crucial to understand the risks associated with prolonged UV exposure, both in childhood and adulthood, as it can result in severe eye conditions in the future.
Cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, is one such condition often accelerated by excessive UV exposure. Likewise, UV rays have been linked to an increased risk of macular degeneration – a leading cause of vision loss in older people.
Fortunately, these risks can be significantly reduced with some preventative measures and regular checkups with a paediatric optometrist throughout childhood. Consistent protection, such as wearing sunglasses from a young age, can drastically reduce the risks, ensuring young eyes remain healthy throughout their lives.
What Are the Best Sunglasses for Kids?
One of the most important factors when it comes to choosing children’s sunglasses is that they should offer 100% UVA and UVB protection. UVA rays can prematurely age the eyes and skin, while UVB rays can burn them. Both types have been linked to serious eye conditions. When searching for the perfect pair, always look for labels or stickers promising this level of protection.
Beyond UV protection, other factors play into the ideal pair of kids’ sunglasses, such as how well they fit and the durability of the sunglasses given the active nature of kids. Lens colour is also important, as it will change how your child sees the world through their glasses.
One of the best options is wraparound sunglasses, which provide an added layer of protection, ensuring sunlight doesn’t sneak in from the sides. When considering infant sunglasses, it is best to choose options that are soft, adjustable and have elastic frames that wrap around your child’s little head.
If your child already wears glasses, prescription sunglasses for kids can serve to both enhance their vision and protect their eyes from harmful UV rays. If you are unsure about choosing the right prescription sunglasses, a kids’ optometrist will be able to help.
Make it a Habit
As with any habit, consistency is key. As parents, the goal is not just to find the right pair of sunglasses but also to ensure children wear them regularly. One of the easiest things you can do is let your child choose their sunglasses, making them much more likely to treasure their pair – they chose it, they love it and they wear it.
It’s important to lead by example, as parents are the most significant role model to their children. If they see you wearing your sunglasses whenever you step outside, they will be far more likely to understand the importance of the habit.
Finally, it is important to ensure their sunglasses are always within reach. By keeping an extra pair in the car or placing them in their school bag, it becomes a reflexive part of their routine, just like putting on a seatbelt or grabbing their lunchbox.
By instilling these practices early on, you can set your children up for a lifetime of healthy vision habits.
Bayside Eyecare’s Commitment to Kids’ Eye Health
As a Bayside optometrist with plenty of experience with children and families, Bayside Eyecare is passionate about kids’ eye health. If you have any concerns about your child’s vision, a friendly children’s optometrist from our practice will be happy to help.