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Your Child's Eyes Need Protection From the Sun, Too

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
young boy with green sunglasses against yellow background

Most parents know they need to protect their children's skin from harmful sun rays. But many forget that the eyes need to be protected, too.

Nearly five out of 10 U.S. parents don’t regularly provide their children with sunglasses that protect their eyes from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Sun exposure may set children up for possible vision problems later in life.

The sun can cause sunburned corneas, cancer of the eyelid, cataracts and macular degeneration, among other problems. In addition, children are more susceptible because their lenses don’t block as much UV as adult lenses.

Children also tend to spend more time outdoors than their parents, often in places where there is a lot of sun reflection. These places include beaches, pools and amusement parks. It’s also important for your child to wear sunglasses in the snow as well. Most UV eye damage is the result of years of exposure. 

Tips for Choosing Sunglasses For Your Child

  • Make sure the sunglasses have a tag or sticker that indicates the lenses provide 100 percent UV protection (from all UV light), or it indicates “UV absorption up to 400nm.”
  • Darker lenses do not mean better protection. Similarly, colored lenses don’t block more or less UV light.
  • Polarized lenses help with glare and better view, but they do not block UV rays unless indicated.
  • Make sure the lens quality is good and does not distort the images.
  • Wider glasses protect a greater surface area.
  • The sunglasses should meet Food and Drug Agency impact safety standards. While no lens is truly unbreakable, plastic lenses are less likely to shatter. Polycarbonate plastic sunglasses are especially tough and could be more ideal for sports. They do, however, scratch easily if the surface is not coated.
  • Expensive does not mean better protection. Look for appropriate labels.

What Sunglasses Cannot Do

Sunglasses will not protect the eyes from direct sunlight gazing (including during a solar eclipse), tanning beds, snowfields and arc welding. These extreme light sources need special filters.

Research has not clarified whether UV protection fades over time. So if you are wondering if a pair of older sunglasses still protect your eyes from UV light, you can have them checked in an optical shop with a UV light meter.

Faruk Orge, MD, FAAO, FAAP, is a pediatric ophthalmologist and Division Chief, Pediatric Ophthalmology, at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and Medical Director for Quality at the UH Eye Institute in Mayfield Heights.

Related Links

At the Center for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus, the specialized care of University Hospitals Eye Institute combines with the renowned expertise of UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital physicians. The center understands the importance of a child-centered environment for delivery of care and specialization of services. Learn more about the Center for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus at UH Rainbow.

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