Should Everyone Wear Sunglasses (Even Kids)?

A friend of mine mentioned recently that he’s been spending a lot of time at Cedar Point and mentioned he was surprised how few kids wear sunglasses.  All the parents wear sunglasses, especially at the waterpark, but very few of the kids are wearing sunglasses.

Does it matter?  Well, it turns out my friend is right to be concerned.  (And kudos to him, in his pics his absolutely adorable son is always wearing shades!)  According to the Vision Council (an eye care industry group), eye health depends on protecting the eyes from UV radiation.  Many people either are unaware or don’t believe that protecting the eyes from UV radiation from the sun is a critical, year-round concern.

There are 3 types of UV radiation – UVA, UVB and UVC.  UVC is filtered by the earth’s atmosphere and not a concern.  UVB is the type of UV radiation that stimulates vitamin D production in the skin, and is partially filtered by the atmosphere.  This is why those of us in northern Ohio can’t get vitamin D from the sun for the wintry half of the year, the sun is too low in the sky and the rays pass through too much air on the way to us.

The type of UV radiation that is most dangerous to the eye is UVA.  The earth’s atmosphere does NOT filter UVA.  If the sun is in the sky your eyes are being exposed to UVC radiation, no matter what season or time of day it is.  Wearing sunglasses as much as possible is important to protect your eyes when you are outdoors.

Here are 3 common misconceptions about sunglasses and sunglass use.

Kids don’t need sunglasses

Children receive about 3 times as much UV exposure per year as adults.  This is because they generally spend more time outdoors than adults do.  However, only 7.4% of adults report their children always wear sunglasses.

UV radiation damage is cumulative which means it builds up over time.  Damage can lead to aging of the skin, skin cancer, cataracts and damage to the retina.  Beginning in childhood, daily sunglass use will decrease the damage and preserve children’s eye health.

The darker the lens, the better the protection

This is not true.  UVA radiation passes right through lenses no matter what their color.  They must be coated to block UV radiation.  Polarized lenses are even better at blocking the UV rays.

In fact, it could be argued that dark lenses without UV protective coatings are the worst option of all, because they cause the pupils to dilate and allow more UV light through to the retina.

When you go to buy sunglasses check for labels to indicate the protection they give.  Make sure you choose lenses that are labeled as protective against both harmful types of ultraviolet light.

Wearing a hat is good enough

Not true.  While wearing a hat protects somewhat against direct UV exposure, it does nothing to stop REFLECTED UV light.

Credit: visioncouncil.org

So how do we get our kids to keep sunglasses on their face?  Hats are hard enough, right?  First of all, having a child pick out their own sunglasses makes it more likely they will wear them.  Make sure to get good quality glasses that fit the child’s face and don’t pinch or rub.

In addition, polarized lenses are more comfortable from a vision standpoint because they reduce glare and block more light.  Kids are more likely to keep them on because they don’t squint as much and they can see better.

Teenagers typically don’t want to be told what to do.  Make sure they understand they will have less problems with red, irritated bloodshot eyes if they wear sunglasses regularly.  Just like with kids, letting them pick out a couple of pairs of cool sunglasses they like will go a long way towards getting them to wear them regularly.

Kids, teens and adults all need to protect their eyes from harmful ultraviolet radiation.  The fronts of the eyes, the lens and the retina are all susceptible to damage which accumulates over time.  You and your family only get two eyeballs and it’s up to us to protect them!

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