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Children's eye health and the importance of sun protection

On a bright, hot, sunny day, applying suncream to prevent our children from getting sunburnt has become second nature, but can the same be said for protecting their eyes?

Without the right protection, the sun’s UV rays can cause sore and uncomfortable eyes in children and, over time, increase the risk of serious eye diseases such as cataracts, eye melanomas, and corneal inflammations.

We need to ensure our children's eyes are protected against harmful UV radiation, just as we do when we lather their skin with suncream.

It’s time to highlight the importance of sunglasses for your child(ren). Do you know if the following statements are true or false?

True or false: Children's eyes are particularly sensitive to UV radiation

True! UV radiation is more harmful to children's eyes than to adult eyes, as their pupils are larger and their lenses contain less pigment. Too much sunlight can cause permanent damage to children's eyes.

Babies up to one years old have a transparent lens which allows 90% of UVA and 50% of UVB rays to penetrate the retina. It takes years for the body's own protection to develop; only after 25 years are some of the rays absorbed by the retina. Likewise, the blink function in babies and toddlers is not fully developed, so the reflex to close their eyes at the right time is limited.

When children are very small, they are not usually exposed to direct sun and are protected by an umbrella, or the roof of their pushchair. But as soon as the little ones can walk and explore the world for themselves, the right sunglasses are a must-have!

True or false: A hat for a child protects enough against the sun

False! A hat can offer some sun protection to the child’s head, but a hat alone is not enough to protect their eyes. Glare and reflections will still cause harmful UV radiation to enter their eyes.

True or false: The darker the lenses, the more sunglasses protect against UV radiation

False! How dark the sunglasses are says nothing about the UV protection they provide.

In fact, transparent lenses can offer 100% UV protection and dark lenses can offer none, so pay close attention to the UV protection the glasses offer (it’s usually stated on the lens or frame – UV400 and UV100% means that sunglasses offer 100% UV protection).

Dark lenses without UV protection are actually more dangerous than lightly tinted lenses without UV protection, as due to the dark glasses, your pupil dilates, allowing even more UV radiation to enter your pupil.

True or false: The higher the CE category, the better your eyes are protected against UV radiation

False! The CE category shows that the sunglasses comply with European Union health and safety standards and indicates how much light is absorbed by the lenses, not the level of protection against UV radiation.

The CE category can usually be found on the inside spring of the glasses. Category CE 1 means between 20% and 57% of the light is absorbed, CE 2 between 57% and 82%, CE 3 between 82% and 92% and glasses with category 4 absorb up to 97% of the light, effectively reducing glare.

To book a free children’s eye test, or for help choosing the right sunglasses, contact your local branch.


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