For most children, summer months mean long hours of play outside in the sunshine. But a few months in the sun can lead to compromised eye health later on if proper UV protection isn’t part of children’s summer routines. The British Columbia Association of Optometrists urges parents to foster good UV eye-protection habits in their children at an early age by encouraging them to wear sunglasses all summer long. Even babies and toddlers should be wearing sunglasses when outdoors. “Cumulative exposure to UV rays can damage the cornea, lens and retina of the eye,” says Dr. Julie Louie, a B.C. optometrist. “UV damage is linked to a number of eye disorders including cataracts and macular degeneration in adults. That’s why parents should insist their child’s eyes are well-protected with proper sunglasses.”
How to select the best sunglasses for their children
- Allow your child to choose their own sunglasses. Your child is more likely to wear a pair of sunglasses they’ve had a hand in selecting. But check labels on the lenses or ask your optometrist to point out styles with effective sun protection.
- Choose lenses with dark, even shading. Tinted lenses should have a dark grey, brown or green tint and should screen out 75 to 90 per cent of visible light. Lenses should also block 99 to 100 per cent of UV-A and UV-B rays.
- Choose sunglasses with adjustable nose pads or specially designed frames for little faces. Because children’s noses and bridges are not fully developed, sunglasses with nose pads provide a better fit and are more likely to stay put than plastic frames, which may slide down their noses. For babies and infants, specially designed plastic frames may be best, as their faces are often too small for nose pads. Ask your optometrist for assistance in selecting the right frame for your child.
- Check the fit of the sunglasses. Make sure the sunglasses do not slip down your child’s nose, pinch the temples, or are too tight. Sunglasses should be comfortable for your child to wear. Also, ensure sunglasses fit close to your child’s face to adequately protect their eyes from light entering at the top or sides.
Children need to have their eyes examined by three years, before school entry and regularly thereafter to ensure eye disorders do not go undetected and their eyes are healthy. Optometrists specialize in examining, diagnosing, treating, managing and preventing diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and related structures. Adults 19 to 64 should have an eye exam every two years. People with diabetes or age 65 or older should have an exam at least once a year.