Eye Safety and UV Protection: Questions and Answers

July 24, 2012 by Kailani  
Filed under family topics, health

Sunglasses and Children:

1.    How can I protect an infant’s eyes from the sun?

There are a few great styles available for infants. These sunglasses are generally designed to fit ages 0-2.

2.    How young should children start wearing sunglasses?

Since UV exposure is cumulative, it’s never too early or too late to start protecting eyes. Young eyes are especially vulnerable to UV rays, so start protecting your children’s eyes as early as possible to ward off the effects of UV on eyes later in life. Starting this safety measure early on may also help it become habit as they grow into young adults and into adulthood.

3.    How can I keep sunglasses on a one-year-old baby?

While it can be frustrating, it’s best to keep putting the sunglasses on your one-year-old to help him or her get used to wearing them. You can also pair the sunglasses with a hat that shades the face to make sure your child’s eyes receive as little contact to direct UV rays as possible. UV exposure is cumulative, so it’s important to make sure young eyes are protected to ward off the effects of UV on eyes later in life.

4.    I try and get my kids to wear sunglasses but they eventually take them off. Are there any tips to help keep sunglasses on kids?

This can certainly be a difficult situation. There are a couple key things The Vision Council would suggest:

  • Make sure the sunglasses fit your children comfortably. Sunglasses that pinch or are scratched are less likely to be worn.
  • Set a prime example by always wearing your own shades. It will seem like a more natural habit if they see you in your own sunglasses.
  • Depending on your children’s ages, style might also play a role. Have them pick out a pair they like and they may be more prone to wear them.

5.    Are there any recommendations on sunglasses for children with sensory issues like autism?

Some kids’ sunglasses use a flexible, rubber strap-on band instead of a metal frame, which could be a great alternative for children with sensory issues. Rubber can be more comfortable and provides tension to give sunglasses a snug fit – without touching ears and noses. These kinds of sunglasses are tinted and look like sport goggles.

You may want to consult a local optician for other ideas. Opticians are often willing to work with you and your child(ren) to create a pair of UV-protective sunglasses that are comfortable and fit properly.

6.    If my kids constantly lose stuff, how much should I invest in a quality pair of sunglasses?

For sunglasses, quality doesn’t necessarily translate to high cost. Several reputable retailers offer protective shades at an affordable price. If your children are particularly prone to losing items, consider buying shades with a plastic frame, which can be less expensive than metal frames.

Sometimes cheap sunglasses are just that—cheap. But you can purchase inexpensive shades and feel confident that your child is getting the protection he/she needs as long as the UV protection is there and the lenses provide clear, unaltered vision.

High price does not always mean high quality. In quality sunglasses, UV protection is a MUST—be sure to find a pair with a sticker or tag stating that the sunwear blocks UV rays (both UVA and UVB). Most of the sunglasses found in retails stores, drug stores, and department stores will only sell glasses with UV protection, and they can be quite inexpensive. Places to steer clear of include online auction sites, street vendors, and vintage or second hand stores.

In addition to UV protection, make sure to look at the lens of a potential purchase. Some inexpensive glasses can have lens distortion which can cause irritation and headaches. They may also shatter more easily, which can be hazardous for active children.

7.    How do you keep kids from breaking sunglasses and also get them to wear a pair?

The Vision Council’s 2012 VisionWatch survey found that half of all Americans will break or lose their sunglasses this year, so this problem extends well beyond your household. There are certain styles and products designed to withstand a little more wear and tear than other styles. Also, sunglasses are just one type of UV protective eyewear. Polycarbonate lenses found in sports protective eyewear and available in clear and tinted lenses provide higher durability and also protect against UVA and UVB rays.

8.    Is any of the damage on children’s eyes reversible? And if kids start wearing sunglasses now, will that remedy any past damage?

Since UV exposure is cumulative, it’s never too early or too late to start protecting eyes. Some eye conditions like photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye) are temporary, while others like ptergyium (abnormal growth on the eye) can be reversed with surgery. However, these conditions often reoccur if UV protective eyewear is not worn in the future.

9.    How can I make sure that my children are wearing sunglasses during recess or outdoor time?

Frequent sunglass use comes with practice. Reinforce healthy behaviors by making kids routinely wear sunglasses when they are out and about – it will help to get them in the habit of remembering to protect their eyes. Kids are also more likely to wear sunglasses if they like them. Involve kids in their sunglass purchases and choose a pair that is not only UV protective, but also exciting to wear.

If your kids are old enough, sit them down and really talk about the reasons why sun-protection like sunblock, hats, and sunglasses are important. As a parent, make sure to add sunglasses to your daily school-prep routine. As you pack your children’s bag with lunch and sports uniforms, check to make sure sunglasses are there too.

Finding Quality Sunglasses:

1.    How can I tell if I have a quality pair of sunglasses? Should I be looking for a certain type of government standard?

To determine the UV protection provided by your current sunglass lenses, take them to your local optometrist or ophthalmologist’s office. Many optical practices have a UV meter that can determine the UV protection of a lens.

When purchasing sunglasses, you should look for an American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, sticker or logo on the lens,tag or box. The ANSI Z80.3-2001 standard, usually labeled as “UV 380,” covers all UVA and UVB ray protective requirements.

2.    Where should I go to buy a quality pair of sunglasses?

Sunglasses should be purchased from a reputable retailer, not street vendors or popular auction sites. Everything from mass retailers to drug stores to your local eye care professional are considered reputable. Wherever you purchase sunglasses, look for both UVA and UVB protection – it will be noted by an American National Standards Institute sticker or logo.

A.) What is a street vendor?

Street vendors are tiny shops or stands that are setup on the side of the street. They sell goods and products – often at a discounted rate – that may be acquired illegally.

3.    Where can I find quality sunglasses that have characters on them?

Reputable retailers like drug stores, mass retailers, and eye care professional offices often have creative kids’ sunglass options. If you’ve found a pair of character shades, make sure the lens quality is good. Try them on your eyes first to make sure you can see clearly. If the lens is blurry for you, they will be blurry for your child too. And again, look for that logo, sticker or tag stating that the shades meet the ANSI standard for UV protection.

UV Radiation:

1.    Do hats help decrease UV exposure to eyes?

Hats, especially wide brimmed ones, can help block UV radiation, but they should never be used in place of sunglasses. The sun is constantly moving so the direction of UV rays at noon is very different from the direction at 3 or 4 p.m. Baseball caps that only have front bills don’t offer eyes nearly enough protection as the sun starts to set. UV protective eyewear is the best way to make sure that eyes are shielded from UVA and UVB rays.

2.    What is the difference between UVA and UVB?

Both UVA and UVB rays penetrate the Earth’s surface and can lead to eye damage, including cataracts. UVA rays account for up to 95 percent of our UV exposure and are present regardless of the season or time of day. UVB rays are shorter and less prevalent but they are also more intense than UVA rays. UVB rays are shorter in length and are more prevalent in the summer months.

3.    Should sunglasses be worn even on cloudy days?

Sunglasses should always be worn outside – no matter your location, season, or time of day. Overcast skies still allow 31 percent of solar radiation to reach the Earth’s surface.

Sunglasses: Styles, Options and Cost:

1.    What are polarized lenses and should my kids be wearing them?

Polarized lenses block light reflected from shiny, horizontal surfaces like water, pavement, and dashboards to reduce glare. They improve contrast and visibility while reducing squinting and eyestrain. For adults, polarized lenses are especially helpful for activities like driving, and for kids they can help to cut glare from the ocean or pool. If your children are highly active, polarized lenses may be a good option.

2.    In terms of lenses, does bigger mean better?

The first thing to consider is whether or not lenses have UV protection; only consider those that do. If lenses are UV protective, size isn’t a huge factor; however, larger lenses can offer more protection to skin that surrounds the eye. Wrap-around sunglasses and those with larger temples also protect skin to the side of eyes.

3.    Can sunglasses be tightened if they get too loose?

Sunglasses that are left in extreme heat can become loose, causing them to not fit your head properly. To fix this, visit a local eye care professional who can tighten both the frame and joints on site.

4.    Does insurance cover sunglasses if you don’t need vision correction?

Insurance companies only cover prescription eyewear. However, certain plans may offer family discounts to specific eye professional retailers.

5.    My prescription glasses have UV protection but the lenses aren’t dark. Is that okay?

UVA and UVB protection is not a function of how light or dark your lenses are. As long as your glasses indicate that they are UV-protective, you are good to go.

6.    Do my contacts change the way UV radiation effects my eyes?

Some contact lenses offer limited UV protection, but not for the entire eye. Also, because the eyelid is a frequent site of skin cancer (10 percent of all skin cancers), sunglasses are vital to sun safety.

Is the sunlight that comes through my home and office windows harmful?

Normal window glass does not protect eyes from all UV radiation. Even though UVB rays can’t penetrate glass, UVA rays can. This puts skin and eyes near windows at risk to exposure. While most glass doesn’t protect against UVA rays, some more modern windows use a coat of UV-blocking film to filter them out.
Courtesy of The Vision Council

About the Author: Kailani:
Owner of An Island Life. A flight attendant and mother to 3 beautiful girls. . . living a blessed life in Hawaii.
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