The sun is out and kids will soon have a long break off from school. Summer is the perfect time for children to enjoy the warm weather and for you to spend quality time with them over extended beach holidays. As a parent, it can also become a worrisome time since children love spending so much time in the sun. How can you best protect your child from harmful UV rays?
Most parents are well equipped with sunscreen and hats but often forget about eye protection. The majority of people (95%) associate UV with skin problems; however, a recent study revealed that only 7% understand the risks UV has on our eyes (research from The Vision Care Institute).
This week’s guest post is from Amy Pritchett, a health writer for the online contact lens retailer Vision Direct UK. Amy blogs about vision health, advice for contact lens wearers and keeping your eyes healthy. Today she is offering tips for protecting your child’s eyes over the summer months and the importance of UV protection.
Why are children’s eyes so vulnerable to sunlight?
It is especially important to protect children’s eyes from the sun since the lens inside a child’s eyes is much clearer than an adult’s. For this reason, more UV radiation is able to pass through the retina. As we get older, the lenses in our eyes yellow and this helps to reduce the amount of UV radiation that can pass through.
Another factor to consider is that children have bigger pupils than adults. This leaves children’s eyes are more vulnerable to UV damage. Children also spend a lot of time outdoors, making them vulnerable to UV rays if they aren’t wearing sunglasses or hats.
What are the consequences?
If we don’t provide children with appropriate protection, they could potentially develop serious eye conditions like age related macular degeneration as they get older. This eye condition is defined by the NHS as leading to the gradual loss of central vision and sometimes causing a rapid reduction of vision.
So just as sunscreen is necessary for skin protection, so is equipping our children with sunglasses and teaching them about vision health. This could help them avoid serious vision damage later in life.
Tips for protecting your children’s vision over summer
- Have children wear sunglasses
You can have fun buying your child a set of shades. Have them pick out a pair they like so they feel excited to wear them all summer long. Giving your children sunglasses at a young age will also help them develop a healthy habit of wearing them throughout their lifetime.
Look out for the following when purchasing sunglasses for your child:
- UVB protection
- UVA protection
- Sunglasses that are close to the face or wraparound their face for maximum protection.
- Purchase plastic sunglasses that can easily be replaced (in the case of breaks).
- Become aware of high risk scenarios for sun damage
Certain scenarios might pose a greater risk to eye health over the summer. For example, children are at high risk of sun damage on a bright day at the beach swimming, surfing or even sailing (Vision Council).
The sand and water at the beach reflects the UV light, posing a threat. The most common consequence of sun exposure is developing photokeratitis, or sunburn of the eye, which can lead to temporary vision loss.
The sun poses the greatest risk to the eyes from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. (Vision Care Institute). Along with sunglasses, you can also provide children with a hat or visor for added protection.
If you have a teen, then you should be wary of tanning bed usage over the summer. Many teens avoid using the goggles provided since they don’t want to get any tan lines. However, teen’s eyes are still sensitive to light and for this reason they should always wear goggles in tanning beds.
- Contact lenses are also an option for UV protection
Did you know that you can get lenses with UV protection? If your child is confident with lenses, then wearing contact lenses with UV protection is also an excellent option. This is especially the case for children that are highly active over summer and find that sunglasses get in the way with sports.
There are no age restrictions for contact lens wearers and older children can wear lenses perfectly. According to Brendan O’Brien, Head Optician at Vision Direct UK, “fitting a 12 year old is quite normal and children as young as 8 years old can be very successfully fitted with contact lenses.”
Please keep in mind that contact lenses with UV blockers are not considered a substitute for sunglasses, since they only block a percentage of the sun. However, they can make a big difference since wearers usually have them in all day long. Have your child match them with a pair of sunglasses for maximum coverage.
Vision Direct UK provides lenses with UV blockers (also a great option for parents). The brands they offer customers with UV protection include Acuvue, CooperVision and Everclear. According to Acuvue, their lenses can block “more than 98% of the transmission of the sun’s UVB rays and 85% of its UVA rays as a standard across its product range.”
Make eyes a priority this summer
Remember to help protect your family’s eyes this summer. UV-related eye damage is a real threat but it can be avoided with sunglasses and protective eyewear like UV blocking contact lenses.
Just as we make it a priority to use a lot of sunscreen, we should place the same importance on our eyes and protecting our vision. By giving our children the best protection, we can help give their eyes a healthy future.
Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post