Even though babies can’t wear traditional sunglasses, they still require UV protection for their eyes, warns the B.C. Association of Optometrists. Cranbrook optometrist Dr. Bednarczyk says damage from ultra-violet light has a cumulative effect, so it’s better to start protecting children’s eyes while they are young. “Over time, UV radiation can damage the cornea, lens or retina of the eyes, and can be linked to a number of eye disorders including cataracts, macular degeneration and cancer,” says Dr. Bednarczyk.
“Slip a bonnet or baseball cap on your baby when you’re outside,” he suggests. “Although regular sunglasses aren’t always comfortable for young children to wear, there are new options with strappy bands that go around the child’s head.”
Whatever UV eye-protection you choose, Dr. Bednarczyk says it’s important to get your child used to wearing hats and sunglasses at an early age so they develop good habits.
The B.C. Association of Optometrists suggests these UV-protection tips for infants and children:
- Put on a wide-brimmed hat, such as a bonnet or baseball cap.
- Choose a stroller with a canopy. Most newer model strollers have a retractable canopy to provide shade. When you’re stationary, point the stroller way from the sun.
- Watch the fit and UV rating of sunglasses. Sunglasses should fit close to your child’s face or wrap around the temples to reduce light from the side. Be sure the lenses offer UV-protection.
- Avoid the sun during peak hours. Try to stay out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Be mindful of reflections from sand and water. Protect your child’s eyes at the beach – sand and water can act like a mirror reflecting up to 20 per cent of UV rays. Ensure your child is wearing protective goggles when in the water and sunglasses and/or a hat when on the beach. Do not use sunscreen on a baby under six months of age. A baby will absorb more of the product through the skin than an older child.
- Ensure your children have regularly scheduled eye exams. Children need to have their eyes examined by six months, three years, before school entry and regularly thereafter to ensure eye disorders do not go undetected.
Optometrists specialize in examining, diagnosing, treating, managing and preventing diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and related structures. For more information on eye health, visit www.whatcouldbemoreimportant.com.
See also our article on Beach Activities for kids! And don’t forget the sunscreen.