We wanted to know how important it is for young children to wear sunglasses, so we gave our friends at ZOOBUG a call and they gave us our answers
Why do children need to wear sunglasses?
Protecting young skin from the sun has become second nature for most parents, but not so when it comes to eyes. The message is not getting out there but eyes too can get sunburnt, a condition known as photokertitis. Over-exposure to ultraviolet light, such as a day at the beach or on the ski slopes without proper eye protection, can cause a painful burn to the surface of the eye (cornea) – similar to sunburn on the skin. Although the condition is temporary, it can lead to blurring of vision and much distress to young children and requires urgent medical attention.
In fact, children’s eyes are at greater risk than adults in the sun because the UV filtering mechanism within the young human lens is not yet fully developed. Hence, they are ultra-sensitive to UV and blue light. So by the age of 18, children would have already been exposed to more than half of their total lifetime exposure. The damage starts early and is cumulative. It is therefore vital that children adopt good UV habits early on in life – avoid the midday sun, cover up with factor 50 suncream and UV protective sunwear, put on a 3-inch wide brim cap and of course a pair of 100% UV protective sunglasses which complies to recognised standards.
Australia has always led the way in understanding the importance of protecting young eyes. Their evidence based research has linked UV light with serious sight threatening conditions like cataract and macular degeneration. The evidence is so compelling that sunglasses are being made a compulsory part of every child’s school uniform and incorporated into the Slip-Slap-Slop campaign.
Every parent knows that persuading a child to wear sunglasses can be tricky especially if they are very young. So here are some top tips for picking out the right pair!
Make sure the sunglasses fit properly! This is the first vital consideration and will ensure whether or not they get worn. The fit will vary according to the age of your child and their face shape and is particularly difficult in babies and toddlers because of their relatively flat, wide nose bridges and facial bone structure. When in doubt, seek expert advice from your local optician. Generally, the frame has to sit comfortably on the nose bridge without touching the cheeks and the tips of the arms need to curl over to rest behind the ears. This is essential to distribute the weight of the frame evenly across the face to prevent pressure sores and the sunglasses from sliding off. Adjustable nose pieces and side arms are very useful features for all active children.
The second consideration is the quality of the lens to ensure adequate eye protection and maintenance of good visual development. Lenses need to be at least 99% UV protective as well as provide high optical clarity. Beware that whilst some lenses are high in UV protection, this does not mean they are also optically superior. Good optical clarity in a lens is essential for seeing clear images and visual development. One way to test this is to hold the frame at arm’s length and fixate on a straight object in the distance whilst you move the frame from side to side. There will be minimal distortion with good quality lenses.
Lens material is an important safety factor. Choose shatterproof plastic lenses, this could either be polycarbonate or CR39 lenses which should be tested to be impact resistant and therefore safe for children and sports wearers. Toy sunglasses should be avoided at all costs as they tend to have sub-standard lenses which may not provide any protection. One way to make sure is to check the label or with the manufacturers that the sunglasses comply to British Standards or other recognised international standards. Remember that a good fitting pair of sunglasses with a high quality lens will always be worn!