How to protect your family’s eyes from the sun

How to protect your family’s eyes from the sun

We know the drill you spend your entire holiday running after your kids with dreaded sun lotion whilst enduring violent protest, tantrums and screams, but how many of us realise the importance of also protecting our children’s eyes against dangerous ultraviolet rays?

No matter where you choose to spend your holidays, either on the sunny shores of a paradise beach or on the snowy slops of the Rockies, children’s eyes are particularly sensitive to UV rays, that is why customised sunglasses from an optician are essential for children from as young as the age of three.

A good indicator for when sunglasses are required is whenever hats and sunscreen are needed. UV rays only make up a small percentage of the light from the sun that penetrates the atmosphere and reaches the earth’s surface, but they play a big role in causing ocular damage and various pathologies.  Because children’s eyes have less capability to filter UV rays than adults eyes, they are at a greater risk of internal eye damage, including cataracts and macular degeneration, later in life. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that up to 80 % of a person’s lifetime exposure to damaging UV radiation occurs before the age of 18. Protecting your child now will decrease the potential for serious eye problems in years to come.

Like normal spectacles, and spectacle lenses in particular, the quality of sunglasses is particularly important. Buying from side walk sellers is ill advised. There is no guarantee where these lenses come from, or are made and could end up causing more damage. More than likely they are selling simple plastic lenses which are dark but offer no protection. This has the effect of dilating the pupil allowing more light into the eye, so the harmful UV rays are more easily absorbed. Always make sure lenses are certified for 100% UV protection. The actual colour of the lens does not make a difference beyond changing how the world appears through them.

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Importantly the frames must provide a good fit at the ears, the nose bridge and the temples (arms must not be too tight and press into the side of the head or too loose and allow the glasses to slip off).

Of course, even the best sunglasses are no good if the child doesn't wear them, the correct pair is one the child is willing to wear. They should be allowed to select frames they like based on colour or design. In addition, kids should be taught to take care of their glasses and store them in a case when not in use. Kids cases with popular characters can be bought to aid in this process. Glasses should also come with a scratch resistant coating which will extend the life of the lenses.

By the way: sunglasses are not suitable for very small babies. Their nose bridges and ears have not yet developed enough to wear glasses. The best protection for babies is a wide-brimmed hat or keeping them in the shade. Children should have suitable sunglasses when they start to attend pre-school at the latest.

For a good pair of affordable sunglasses, you can expect to pay from approximately R500.00 and up. Don’t forget, Spec-Savers is also able to make any pair of optical glasses into sunglasses by tinting them.

Date Published: 
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