With unusually warm temperatures and longer hours of sunlight, it already feels like summer in many parts of the country. Sunscreen and sunglasses are becoming part of many adults daily ritual, but what about our kids? Sunscreen - check. Sunglasses? … Not so much according to a report issued by The Vision Council.
The report, Finding Your Shades, Protecting Your Vision, outlines trends in UV-protective behaviors like sunglass use, as well as the major health effects that can occur as a result of cumulative UV exposure, and the protective measures necessary to prevent them.
The report noted that about 73 percent of adults slip on a pair of shades when it's sunny, but only 58 percent of parents offer a pair to their kids. Fortunately, most children don’t spend all day in the bright sun and they naturally protect their eyes from high light levels by squinting. However, eye protection is particularly important for children who spend all day on the water or at the beach, where there is intense glare.
Children’s eyes have a thin cornea and lens. Until the cornea and lens fully develop, a greater percentage of UV rays is allowed to enter the eye. Optometrists are concerned more with the cumulative effect over time. Eye damage beginning during childhood can lead to the development of cataracts, skin cancer around the eyes, photokeratitis (“eye sunburn”), and damage to the retina itself.
Experts say shades that offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays are the ideal choice.
If you have blue eyes, your eyes are more at risk for UV damage. But even brown eyes need protecting from the sun's rays, which can cause a variety of eye problems, including irritation, cataracts, and cancer. In addition, a good pair of sunglasses can protect your eyes from wrinkles and crow's feet, say experts.
When shopping for styles for your kids, a slew of sunglass companies have targeted what kids want with rich colors and creative frames, such as cat-eye or geometric shapes in tortoise or green. Plastic sunglass frames can mimic adult styles, as can miniature wraparounds for a sporty look.
It’s a good idea to have your child’s sunglasses fitted by an optician so they are comfortable. Clip-ons are also available for kids who wear prescription glasses, or you can choose magnetic sunglasses that are less bulky and more stylish.
Marketing companies never miss a beat when there is an opportunity to sell something, so if your child is into cartoons, Disney movies, or young celebrities you can find a pair of kid’s shades that will fit your little ones precious peepers.
Tips for buying your child sunglasses:
- Lenses must be polarized to provide 100% UV protection.
- Make sure they fit well. Use ones with straps for youngsters and for when they are doing sports.
- Wrap-around frames protect best.
- Make sure your child has suitable polarized goggles for playing in water.
- Buy them what they will wear! Kids, just as much or even more than adults, care what they look like especially when they become tweens and teens. There is little point in buying them a dorky pair they will take off as soon as they are out of your sight. Fortunately there is a huge selection of trendy sunglasses available that are both affordable and provide proper protection.
- Buy polycarbonate lenses - they are shatter proof and generally scratch proof. They are also very lightweight so are comfortable to wear. Be careful of sunglasses that are marked as "impact resistant" - these are not necessarily shatter-proof and incidents of damage to eye from shattered lenses is not uncommon.
Sunglasses can be fun as well as protective. And don’t forget the littlest ones. Infants need eye protection too. And really, we all know how cute that can be!