What parents need to know about kids’ eye safety this summer

Photo by Juan Salamanca from Pexels

This summer, Optometry Australia is reminding parents just how important the ‘slide’ in the Cancer Council’s SunSmart protection message ‘slip, slop, slap, seek and slide’ is – as sunglasses can reduce UV radiation to a child’s eyes by up to 98 per cent, if worn with a broad-brim hat.

According to Optometry Australia’s 2020 Vision Index report, almost one in 10 Australians do not know UV protective sunglasses exist, whilst 30 per cent believe they are unnecessary; suggesting a need for greater awareness of the risk UV rays poses to eye health.

Too much UV radiation to the eyes can lead to significant eye problems, ranging from short-term irritation to long-term damage such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

Kids’ eyes are also more vulnerable to UV rays than adults, so it’s vital children wear UV protected sunglasses when outdoors.

UV protective glasses

When looking for sunglasses to protect kids from the harsh UV rays during summer, parents should consider the following advice:

  • The most important step is making sure you choose a pair with 100% UV protection. You can ensure they have high enough protection by checking the swing tag to make sure they meet the Australian Standard for eye protection in category two or higher
  • Avoid novelty or toy sunglasses with coloured lenses as they don’t provide enough protection
  • Choose close-fitting, wrap-around style sunglasses that cover as much of the eye as possible and won’t fall off during play time.

Meet 'the sunglasses guy'

Former school teacher David Whetton found himself face to face with the harmful risks of inadequate UV ray protection when his son presented to the optometrist with symptoms of a blocked tear duct. The optometrist revealed David’s son had pinguecula, an early sign of UV damage.

David Whetton

David was told to ensure that his son wore sunglasses whenever he was outdoors as well as regularly visit the optometrist so that the pinguecula didn’t turn into a more serious condition known as pterygium - a fleshy tissue that grows in a triangular shape over the cornea.

The experience inspired David (now nicknamed 'the sunglasses guy') to start School Shades, a company supplying sunglasses to schools and preschools to make looking after students’ eye health easier.

Supporting David’s commitment to UV protection for eyes, Optometry Australia’s Sophie Koh says, “UV damage from the sun begins in childhood but in most cases, you won’t be able to see the impact of UV until later in life, so it’s essential kids develop the healthy habit of wearing sunglasses when they leave the house.”

Seeking advice

Optometry Australia recommends that all children have a full eye examination with an optometrist before starting school, and regularly every two to three years as they progress through primary and secondary school.

This reminder is timely with the return to school just around the corner. Alarmingly, one in five children return from summer break with an undetected vision problem, despite the 2020 Vision Index report revealing that 79 per cent of Australian parents believe their children have great eyesight.

Parents can use our Find an Optometrist search function to locate their local optometrist.

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