Summer eye protection for kids

The harsh Aussie sun can be particularly harmful to children’s eyes. Here’s what you need to know about UV protection for kids. 

Most Aussie parents are well aware of the need to slop on sunscreen and slap a hat on their child before going out in the harsh Australian sun. But it turns out the often forgotten mantra of sliding on sunglasses is just as important when it comes to sun safety for kids. Here’s what you need to know about eye protection for children, and choosing kids’ sunglasses.

UV exposure and young eyes

In much the same way as too much sun can increase the risk of skin cancer, exposure to UV radiation over long periods can lead to serious damage to the eyes. In the short term, excess sun can cause mild irritation, swelling and difficulty looking at strong light, while exposure over many years can lead to cataracts, vision problems and even cancer.
 
Children’s eyes are particularly vulnerable to the sun’s rays because their ocular lenses aren’t fully developed and can’t filter UV light as well as adults’ can. In younger eyes the lens is much clearer, so it allows more of the harmful rays through and that’s where a lot of the damage can occur in young eyes.
 
 Research shows a significant part of our lifetime UV radiation exposure occurs before we turn 18 . Most kids spend a lot of time outdoors, and often parents encourage them to get out and be active. But because of this they tend to spend a lot more time in the sun than adults

boy playing on the beach

Sunglasses for kids

It’s no surprise that sunglasses are one of the most effective ways to protect young eyes from the sun. In fact, a broad-brimmed hat can cut UV radiation to the eyes by 50 per cent, but add sunglasses and exposure is reduced by up to 98 per cent.
 
It’s important to make sure you choose kids’ sunnies that meet the Australian Standard, which guarantees UV protection. Look for the words ‘good UV protection’ on the label or choose lens categories two or three. You can read more about sunglasses safety standards here.
 
If your child finds ordinary sunglasses uncomfortable to wear, or you’re worried about the safety of the frames, special kids’ and baby sunglasses secured with soft elastic could be a good option. And for kids who just don’t like wearing sunnies, don’t panic: it can be really difficult to keep sunglasses on some kids. 
 
If you go for a holiday to the beach or you’re by the water for long periods, persist with the sunnies as the reflection of the sun on sand and water increases their exposure to UV rays. But if all else fails, just try to be sensible and keep your kids in the shade as much as possible.
 
Protecting kids’ eyes from the sun will help to shield them from the short - and long-term effects of UV exposure, especially during the warmer months. And the right pair of snazzy sunnies goes a long way to doing just that! 

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