As parents we inherently know about the risk the sun can cause to our little ones skin when outdoors. Because of this sunscreen, hats and decent clothing are regular necessities for outdoor play. But the widely unknown risk (or not spoken about often enough) is of the damage the sun can do to unprotected eyes. Research shows this can sometimes be 3 times greater than the damage to their skin!
The World Health Organisation provides research that suggests by the time a person reaches the age of 18, they have received up to 80% of their lifetime exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. That is significant exposure considering the best methods to protect against this exposure are not widely understood or known by families around Australia & New Zealand. Real Kids Shades are trying to change that!!
Before you read anymore though, I want it to be clear this is not meant to scare the hell out of you! Instead to allow you to make informed decisions when it comes to enjoying the outdoors with your kids and giving them the best chance of maintaining healthy and strong vision for the rest of their lives.
What is Ultraviolet radiation/light?
Put in simple terms, UV radiation is a form of energy created from the sun and can not be seen or felt. UV radiation exists every day, even on cloudy or cold days and is most commonly known for causing skin damage. There are three types of known UV - UVA is known to contribute to skin ageing and wrinkling whereas UVB is the main culprit for sun burn and carries the risk of skin cancer. The third UV ray, UVC does not reach the earths surface as it is absorbed by the ozone layer.
Why are kids eyes so vulnerable to UV radiation?
As your child grows and develops, so too do their eyes. Until around 10 years old, the ocular lenses of a child/adolescent are clearer and can not filter ultraviolet light as effectively as that of an adult. This means more UV radiation can reach deeper into their eyes and cause greater risk of damage to the retinas. It is estimated that up to 70% more UV radiation reaches a child’s retina than that of an adult – 70%!!
It is important to know also that certain medications can make a person’s skin and eyes more susceptible to UV light – medications such as acne treatments among others!!
What are the health effects of overexposure to UV radiation?
Unlike UV damage to the skin, UV damage to the eye is irreparable, permanent and accumulates throughout your life. Overexposure to UV light can increase your risk of cancers to the eye, eyelids or skin around the eyes as well as inflammations of the cornea and conjunctiva of the eye. It may also increase your risk of contracting conditions such as cataracts or macular degeneration which are listed by the World Health Organisation as being among the world’s leading causes of blindness.
How to prevent overexposure to UV light.
There are countless good things about the sun and being outdoors to catch some rays. As with most things in life, as long as it is in moderation and you are prepared!
Sunglasses!! Shock horror… who saw that one coming!!
Sunglasses are a must when it comes to enjoying the outdoors but not just any pair of sunglasses will do. Select sunglasses that firstly meet the Australian & New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1067:2003 category 3 or above. Select a product that blocks 100% UVA & UVB rays (UV400) and ideally has a wrap around frame to block as much peripheral light as possible.
Sunglasses are only one piece of the UV protection puzzle. Keep an eye (pardon the pun) on the UV index in your area and take greater care when the UV index is 3 or above – to be fair this is most days throughout the year in Australia & New Zealand. A broad brimmed hat is a great option to help shield UV rays from the face & eyes as is being under shady areas were possible. Be mindful of UV light reflecting off surfaces such as water, snow or sand.
Lastly but not least, as you would a doctor or dentist, a regular check up with a qualified optometrist is the best way to identify, prevent and treat any potentially harmful eye conditions. Yes, even kids!! A regular check up could also help identify & treat learning difficulties caused by vision impairment that you or your child may not even know is an issue. Add this one to your list of must dos!
I hope this has helped, not frightened, you to understand the risks associated with exposure to the sun’s rays. Do not avoid the outdoors because you are afraid of exposure to UV radiation!! The good out weigh the bad but it is important to be prepared and understand what simple steps you can take to minimise harmful exposure.
Kids typically spend more time outdoors than adults and it is important to teach them the importance of wearing sunglasses. It can be done if it is supported by the adults in their life and of course if they have a pair of sunglasses to begin with! Just like wearing a bike helmet, sunglasses can become instinctual when kids are heading outdoors. Not to mention, less squinting and more comfortable enjoyment for them.
All Real Kids Shades offer 100% protection from UVA & UVB and meet AS/NZS 1067:2003 category 3 sunglasses. We have a great selection of wrap around frames that come in a range of colours for each child to express their bright personalities!! Shop with us now @ www.real-kids.com.au.