Do Children Need Eye Protection From The Sun?


Children and teenagers are particularly susceptible to the sun’s damaging rays. Kids and teens typically spend more time outdoors than adults and the lenses of their eyes are more transparent than those of adults. The danger is that this allows more UV radiation to reach the retinas of children and teenagers (the retina is the light sensitive layer at the back of the eyes).  It’s a good idea for kids to wear protective sunglasses when playing outdoors.

In addition to visible light, the sun gives off ultraviolet radiation. This radiation is divided into three types: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C.  The earth’s ozone layer absorbs UV-C radiation, leaving sunglasses to protect against UV-A and UV-B rays.

Studies indicate that long-term exposure to UV-A and UV-B can contribute to the development of cataracts; retinal problems; benign growths on the eye’s surface; cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes; and photokeratitis, a temporary but painful sunburn of the eye’s surface.

The best protection against the sun’s damaging rays is consistent use of sunglasses. Use the following tips when selecting your next pair of sunglasses.  For optimum sun protection, the sunglasses should:

  • Block out 99-100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation
  • Screen out 75-90 percent of visible light (fashion tinted lenses usually do not meet this level)
  • Be perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection
  • Have gray, green, or brown lenses (gray is recommended)

Remember that the effects of UV radiation are cumulative, so it’s important to develop good protection habits early in life.  Begin by bringing your child to an eye doctor for an annual comprehensive eye exam.