The short answer: yes!
UV radiation from the sun can cause significant damage to a child’s eyes and lead to serious eye conditions later in life, making the need for protection from an early age essential.
And parents need to know that the risk to children’s eyes from sun exposure is significantly greater than for adults.
While it’s now become the norm to slather your kids with sunscreen and pop hats on them before they go out in the sun, not everyone knows the vital need to slide a pair of sunnies on them too.
Kids should definitely be wearing sunglasses anytime they are outdoors for a significant amount of time. Children are more sensitive to damage as the tissue in their eyes is more fragile, so wearing a hat simply isn’t enough.
And the fact is, kids can often spend vast amounts of time outdoors on sunny days, sometimes more than adults, so their need is arguably greater for that reason also.
There are many conditions affecting the eyes that are related to UV exposure such as cataract, macular degeneration, pterygium (a fleshy growth over the front of the eye) and even eye cancers, so putting sunglasses on your kids should be part of your everyday sun protection routine.
We suggest the following tips for parents:
- While you don't have to spend a fortune buying sunglasses for your children, do make sure you choose a pair with 100% UV protection.
- Novelty or toy sunglasses with coloured lenses don’t provide enough protection and so should be avoided.
- It's never too early for children to wear sunglasses so get them in the habit of doing so while they’re young.
- It can often be difficult for children to keep them on their faces, so consider buying sunglasses with an elasticated band around the back. This also reduces the risk of them getting lost.
- If children are having trouble wearing sunglasses then the next best thing is a broad brimmed hat that provides some shade for the eyes – but note that hats stop only around 50 per cent of UV rays.
- For young babies, a cover over their pram will help protect their skin and eyes from the sun's rays.
- If in doubt, visit your optometrist for expert advice on caring for your children’s eyes.
Getting kids in the habit of wearing sunglasses early can make a massive difference to their vision and eye health over the course of their lifetime.