UV and Your Child’s Eyes

Child wearing sunglasses

UV radiation can cause long-term damage to your child’s eyes, just as it can to their skin. Protecting your child now will decrease the potential for serious eye problems later in life.


WHAT IS UV RADIATION?

Ultraviolet radiation is an invisible component of sunlight, which is most commonly known to cause sunburns and skin cancers, as well as other health problems. While some UV is filtered by the ozone layer, increasing amounts are reaching the earth as the ozone layer steadily diminishes. UV also passes directly through clouds, causing year-round health risks.

HOW DOES UV RADIATION DAMAGE THE EYE?

Bright sun and glare causes discomfort, blurred vision and watery eyes. Direct exposure to sunlight for even short periods of time can cause sunburn of the eyelids or inflammation of the cornea (like snow blindness or welders flash burns).
More importantly, exposure to UV is cumulative and can lead to long-term damage to the eye, including:

  • Eyelid skin cancer
  • Tissue growths on the surface of the eye (pterygium and pinguecula) that can eventually block vision
  • Degeneration of the cornea
  • Cataracts
  • Age-related macular degeneration

ARE CHILDREN AT RISK FOR EYE DAMAGE FROM UV?

YES, children are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of ultraviolet radiation.

Children spend more time outdoors and thereby receive approximately three times the annual dose of UV than adults. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that up to 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV radiation occurs before age 18.

Additionally, the crystalline lens in children’s eyes has less capability to filter UV than in adult eyes, resulting in greater risk for internal eye damage (cataracts and macular degeneration) later in life.

TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD’S EYES FROM THE DANGERS OF UV RADIATION:

1. Be conscious of the daily UV index and the many sources of UV radiation, including direct sunlight and reflections from snow, water, sand and pavement.

2. Have your child wear sunglasses whenever outdoors.

3. Have your child wear a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap when outdoors.

4. Teach your children to never look directly into or stare at the sun.

5. Try to keep children out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.

6. Keep children younger than six months old out of direct sunlight – use a canopy or umbrella as a sun-shield when outdoors.

HOW TO CHOOSE SUNGLASSES FOR YOUR CHILD:

If your child does not wear prescription glasses, choose over-the-counter sunglasses with:

  • A close-fitting, wrap around style frame
  • 100% UVA and UVB blocking lenses
  • Impact resistant lenses

If your child wears prescription glasses, consider:

  • Variable tint or transitions lenses
  • A separate pair of spectacles with tinted lenses and UV400 protective coating

DO INEXPENSIVE SUNGLASSES PROVIDE ADEQUATE UV PROTECTION?

Tests have shown that inexpensive sunglasses can provide full UV protection, comparable to expensive designer sunglasses, however the quality of the materials and consistency of the tints may be inferior. Such imperfections can distort vision, causing a mild headache or eyestrain when sunglasses are worn. To ensure that you receive a good quality product, buy from a reputable professional or retailer.

To ensure your child has healthy eyes and vision for life, schedule regular visits to your optometrist for evaluation and preventive care. Contact the Ontario Association of Optometrists at 1-800-540-3837 FREE or visit www.optom.on.ca/find_an_optometrist to find an optometrist in your community.


Thanks to the Doctors of Optometry at the Ontario Association of Optometrists, we have a list of informative articles on children’s vision.


Be sure to check out previous articles generously written for us by the doctors of the OAO, including:

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I founded Mums 'n Chums in 2009 after realizing that the area I live in was drastically underserviced as compared to surrounding areas for support and activities for growing families. Mums 'n Chums grew popular very quickly and I have been dedicated to nurturing that growth through frequent networking, social media engagement and in person meetups. By the end of its first year, Mums 'n Chums had close to 500 members and was receiving regular inquiries from fans outside of its service area, asking when we would be expanding to serve them as well. After much careful research and polling, I expanded the site in May of 2011 to cover the entire North end of the GTA (from Cambridge to Markham), areas I believe are still receiving far less attention than they deserve from other sites and family services. We also changed the focus from small scale local mom and tot meetups to more of an informative purpose, closing down our forum and adding several talented contributors to the blog. We do still offer several large scale family events per year, such as our popular Birthday Bash events and our Holiday Bash in December. Our contests have also become a member favourite, and we strive to offer amazing prizes from trusted brands like Babies R Us, La Roche Posay, Johnson's Baby and many more. In March of 2016, after months of work spent migrating all of the site's content to a new platform, Mums 'n Chums re-launched with its fresh, new look. The changes and expansion have proven a great success and we're still getting inquiries from several other cities within the Greater Toronto Area, whom we have decided to serve as well. I have built this site and its' reputation carefully and look forward to continuing its growth!