When it comes to kid’s sun safety, you slather on the sunscreen but you may be skipping an often overlooked area — your child’s eyes!
From the dangers of getting too much or too little sun exposure to tips on finding the right balance for your kiddo’s peepers, discover the answer to the burning question — should kids wear sunglasses?
Is the sun bad for kids’ eyes?
“There is a lot of research that shows the harmful effects of too much sunlight for a child’s eyes,” warns James McDonnell, M.D., medical director of pediatric ophthalmology at Loyola University Health System and professor of ophthalmology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Sunlight overexposure can lead to aging of the lens and retina damage.” And, while parents should take caution with every little looker’s sun exposure, “Children with fair skin tend to have lighter-colored eyes and are more vulnerable to too much sun exposure,” McDonnell says. “Light sensitivity can run in the family. So, if you are sensitive to light your child might be too,” McDonnell adds.
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Exposing young eyes to the right amount of sunlight
While too much sun can be bad for your child’s eyes, too little sun exposure can also be detrimental. So before you ban your youngsters’ eyeballs from seeing the light of day, remember that the key is balance. “Our eyes need sunlight. We shouldn’t avoid being in the sun,” advises Dr. McDonnell. “Sunlight exposure does a lot of good things for our bodies — like driving melatonin production — and is important for the sleep cycle. You just don’t want too much of a good thing.” As a general rule, Dr. McDonnell urges parents to protect kids’ peepers with sunglasses or hats when playing in the sun for more than 20 minutes.
Finding the perfect pair of sunglasses for kids
Now you know that kids should wear sunglasses, but it’s also important to note that not every pair of shades will do. “There are a lot of sunglasses out there that are not effective at protecting kids’ eyes from damaging rays,” says Dr. McDonnell. Here are some tips he offers on pairing up kids with the right sunglasses:
- Kids’ sunglasses should have a wrap-around frame to protect from peripheral light
- Lenses should be transparent enough to see a child’s eyes
- Shades should be free of dangerous chemicals such as bisphehol or phthalates
- Pick a pair that fit properly and comfortably
- Look for lenses boasting both UVA and UVB ray protection
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So, should kids wear sunglasses? Yes! Kids and sunglasses are a match made in heaven so long as you remember not to completely shelter your child’s peepers from ever catching the sun’s rays. However, Dr. McDonnell cautions parents to be on the lookout for other signs beyond too much sun exposure when practicing kids’ sun safety. “If your child has an unusual sensitivity to light it could be a symptom of a medical condition and it’s important for the child to see a pediatric ophthalmologist,” he adds.