The greatest amount of UV damage to the eye occurs during the first 18 years of life, which makes it extremely important for children to wear sunglasses.
Too much sun exposure at an early age contributes to damage that can turn into cataracts and macular degeneration when children get older. Sunglasses also offer protection for the delicate skin around your child’s eyes and eyelids. The Skin Cancer Foundation instructs parents to have children over 6 months wear sunglasses. Babies under 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight.
According to Prevent Blindness America, children’s sunglasses should block 99 to 100 percent of both types of untraviolet rays: UVA and UVB. Children typically spend more time outdoors, especially when the sun is brightest, which also makes them more susceptible to damage from UV rays.
Here’s the breakdown:
- UVA is lower-energy ultraviolet radiation that can penetrate skin and eyes more deeply. Because UVA rays can penetrate the eye, they have been shown to cause cataracts and macular degeneration.
- UVB is high-energy ultraviolet radiation that causes your skin to burn. The cornea is designed to block most of the UVB rays from the eye but overexposure can cause a “sunburn” of the cornea called photokeratitis. This is a serious and painful condition that can cause temporary vision loss most commonly called “snow blindness.”
- Children’s sunglasses that offer the correct amount of protection will advertise that they block UV rays. But make sure the label says that it blocks 99-100 percent of these rays. In fact, glasses without the proper amount of protection can actually do more harm by dilating the eyes and letting in more of those damaging rays.
When Do Kids Need to Wear Sunglasses?
It’s important to note that although children spend far more time outdoors than adults, they are far less likely to wear protective sunglasses. It’s crucial for parents to remember to enforce wearing sunglasses as a habit because over 80 percent of all eye damage occurs under the age of 18. Just as you would have your child wear sunscreen to go play outside all afternoon, you should get into the habit of having them wear their sunglasses too. Also, remember that UV rays can penetrates clouds. Even on an overcast or cloudy day your children should be protecting their eyesight. Here are some situations in which it’s important to remember sunglasses for your child:
- While playing outside in any season. The sun shines bright all year round and can be especially harmful during the winter months when the sun reflects off of white snow.
- Anytime your child will be around water, whether it be the pool, beach, or lake. Like snow, the sun reflects off of the surface of the water and can create a harsh glare.
- While your child goes to an amusement park or sporting event. Spending extended hours in an area with little shade requires the protection of sunglasses.
- Riding in the car. You wouldn’t think about driving around without sunglasses on when the sun was shining brightly and glaring off other cars, so don’t forget to shade your child’s eyes too. Even if they may be avoiding UV damage while in the car, sun headaches aren’t fun for anyone.
Remember this rule of thumb: If you are lathering sunscreen on your child, it’s probably sunglasses weather.
Resources on Why Do Kids Need to Wear Sunglasses?
- Los Angeles Children’s Hospital: Eye Health Facts
- Vision Works: Children’s Eye Health
- All About Vision: Children’s Sunglasses
- Livestrong: Children’s Sunglasses
- Philadelphia Magazine Top Doctor: Do my Kids Need to Wear Sunglasses?