Sunglasses, should your child be wearing them?

sunglasses boy.jpg

ABC News have written a story this week focusing on the need for children to wear sunglasses. This topic comes up about once a year, and yes, ABC News have covered a similar story here and here before. They have quoted an eye specialist Dr Shanel Sharma, who is a Lecturer at University of Sydney and an eye surgeon and specialist based in Sydney. Here's what I've found on the topic, see what you think.

Important points

  • Big pupils and clearer lenses means up to 70 per cent more UV light reaches a child's retina than in an adult's eye.

  • Blue eyes are particularly at risk because the less pigment in the iris means more sensitivity to UV.

  • The long-term effects of sunburned eyes are cumulative and not reversible.

  • For kids, bright summer days at the beach, surfing or sailing, pose the highest risk, as sand and water reflect the UV light.

  • Hats only protect from above, not below, where reflected UV from water, sand or concrete can do a lot of damage.

Image sourced from The Vision Council.

Image sourced from The Vision Council.

Hold your horses, there's a BUT...

Doctors warn that some sunglass manufacturers are taking advantage of the lack of conclusive studies on the subject. "Many manufacturers use tactics to make parents scared that if they do not put their infant and toddler into sunglasses, their child won't be able to see in adulthood," said Dr. Robert Gross, a paediatric ophthalmologist in Texas. "There's insufficient data to warrant mandating that all infants and small children must wear sunglasses at all times," Dr. Gross said. "However, it certainly would not hurt a child to wear them when in the sun for long periods."

According to an Australian company Zeiss, "sunglasses are not suitable for very small babies. Their nose bridges and ears have not yet developed enough to wear glasses. The best protection for babies is a wide-brimmed hat or keeping them in the shade. Children should have suitable sunglasses when they start to attend pre-school at the latest".

Tips for buying sunglasses

  • Choose sunglasses that have Australian standard UV 400 lenses or 100% UV protection. 

  • Polarised lenses to eliminate glare, so his may have a more immediately beneficial effect, making your child more likely to keep wearing the glasses.

  • Find impact-resistant, scratch-proof lenses that don't pop out of the frames. Avoid glass lenses, unless recommended by a doctor; plastic is safer. Frames should be bendable but unbreakable. Make sure the glasses fit snugly, close to the face.

  • Sunglasses need to fit your children comfortably. Sunglasses that pinch or are scratched are less likely to be worn.

What is a UV Alert?

Sunsmart have created a great resource to help parents with young children. The sun protection times can tell you whenever UV levels are forecast to be 3 or higher. This makes it easier to know when you do and don’t need sun protection. These times are forecast each day by the Bureau of Meteorology.

You can find the sun protection times for your location at the Bureau of Meteorology website .

SunSmart recommends using a combination of the five sun protection measures during the daily sun protection times: Slip on  clothing , Slop on SPF30 or higher  sunscreen , Slap on a  hat , Seek  shade  and Slide on  sunnies .

I'll leave this one with you,

Sarah Cameron