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Do Kids Need to Wear Sunglasses Too?


Only 5% of parents in the United States report that their children always wear sunglasses when outside, and over 12% of parents report using nothing to protect their kids’ eyes from sunlight. There are a few reasons why parents may not encourage sunglass wear -- sunglasses fall off, kids lose their sunglasses, kids don’t want to wear their sunglasses, the sun doesn’t seem to bother them, etc… Despite these completely understandable reasons, ultraviolet light from the sun is known to cause many health problems for the eyes and surrounding skin. In fact, kids are more susceptible to the consequences of sunlight than adults.

Ultraviolet Light

Ultraviolet (UV) light, emitted from the sun, is an invisible electromagnetic radiation only partially filtered out by the Earth’s ozone layer. There are three forms of UV light: UVA, UVB, and UVC. 

 

UVA

UVB

UVC

320 – 400 nm 

290 – 320 nm

100 – 290 nm 

Damages the front and back of eye (eyelids, cornea, lens, retina)

Damages only the front of the eye (eyelids, cornea, lens)

Completely filtered out by the Ozone Layer of the Earth

Causes: aging, wrinkling, skin and eye damage

Causes: redness, burning, skin and eye damage, skin and eye cancer

Does not contribute to skin or eye damage

 

Evidence exists that as the ozone layer continues to be depleted, higher levels of UVB light will cause increasing UV-related damage to humans. Localized damage to the eyes and eyelids occurs due to UVA and UVB light, which is why you want sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection. While the natural lens of the eye absorbs some UVB light (thus protecting the back of the eye), this absorption increases with age making kids more vulnerable than adults to UVB light. 

 

Ultraviolet Light Exposure in Kids 

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 80% of UV light exposure occurs before the age of 18. More conservative figures still find that kids have three times the UV exposure as adults due to spending significantly more time outdoors. Limiting UV light exposure in young eyes is extremely important for longterm eye health. Youthful eyes are still developing and growing similar to the brain and the body. Also, as eyes age the natural lens in the eye slowly hardens and turns yellow in color. This yellowing lens absorbs UV light, thus better protects the eyes as people age. In children, the natural lens of the eye is soft and completely transparent, and thus absorbs less UV light than an adult lens. Less protection by the natural lens means more UV light reaches the back of the eye. The same is generally true for the cornea as well. 

 

Ultraviolet Light Damages the Eyes

Research has shown that young and developing eyes are especially susceptible to UV light. Since the cornea and lens of young eyes absorb less UV light, this allows more UV light to reach the lens and the retina of the eye, thus predisposing kids’ eyes to UV damage. This UV damage may cause premature cataracts, premature aging of the eye, eye growths, retinal damage, corneal sunburns, and even eyelid and retinal cancers. 

 

As eye damage is cumulative over a lifetime and begins at birth, parents need to be diligent to ensure their kids’ eyes are always protected. Besides finding a pair of sunglasses your child likes, there are other ways to protect eyes from UV light -- such as wearing hats and playing in the shade. However, sunglasses are the best way to ensure the eyes and eyelids are protected from harmful UV light. The most common reason parents do not buy sunglasses for their kids is because parents are worried their kid will lose them. This is why we created Snappies -- sunglasses with slap bracelets attached so they won’t get lost. Our sunglasses are foldable, snappable, and unforgettable -- check out our Snappies today! 

 

Kids Sunglasses goat joke photo

Sources:

  1. The Vision Council: https://www.thevisioncouncil.org/content/uv-eye-protection/kids
  2. The Vision Council: http://nationalsunglassesday.com/sunglasses/uv-and-children/
  3. World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/uv/resources/fact/en/fs261protectchild.pdf
  4. Journal of Clinical Ophthalmology: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872277/
  5. All About Vision: https://www.allaboutvision.com/sunglasses/spf.htm