Summertime brings beach trips and barbecues. With all that additional leisure time comes added responsibility, especially if you have little ones. Whenever children spend an extended period of time outside, it is important to balance fun in the sun with preparation against the sun’s powerful effects.
Most parents are on top of the essentials – keep your kids hydrated and slather them in sunscreen – but many are unaware of the importance of UV protection in pediatric eye care. Ample attention is given to proper skin protection, but not enough parents are aware of the importance of protecting your children’s eyes from UV radiation as well.
Evolution has provided our eyes with quite the protective arsenal. The relatively deep setting of our eyes in the head partnered with our eyelashes and brows help reduce the amount of direct sunlight that enters our eyes. Nevertheless, these features are not always enough.
Purchasing sunglasses for your children isn’t just about putting together a cute outfit for your summer pictures – although that’s certainly a nice bonus! It’s a vital part of preventative pediatric eye care. Letting your kids throw on some shades provides additional protection in cases where there is increased exposure to the sun, and this isn’t just in the summertime. Your kids’ eyes are also vulnerable to UV rays strongly reflected by snow, sand, and water.
When you think of sunburn, the first thing that may come to mind is skin, but it is possible to get one on your eye as well.
Increased exposure to UVB rays can lead to photokeratitis, an inflammation of the cornea. Additionally, children can also experience photoconjunctivitis, an inflammation of the conjunctiva instead. While neither of these result in permanent damage if treated, they are both exceptionally painful and can be avoided with proper pediatric eye care like wearing sunglasses.
Cataracts and children are two words you rarely hear in the same sentence, but proactive pediatric eye care like putting sunglasses on your child and limiting their exposure to the sun can be extremely beneficial to them later in life. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 16 million people worldwide become blind due to cataracts. Experts believe that the likelihood of developing cataracts is increased by enhanced exposure to UVB rays.
Early pediatric eye care can help prevent many future problems. Cataracts, while they are uncomfortable and unwelcome, are treatable and cataract surgery can be finished within an hour. Sadly, the effects of other eye conditions are much more devastating. Eye cancers can result in the entire removal of a person’s eye or eyes. Tumors can develop both in the eye or on the eyelids, and scientists believe that regular exposure to the sun over a person’s life can increase their risk of receiving devastating diagnoses like melanoma or lymphoma of the eye.
Establishing good pediatric eye care practices can help your child develop lifelong habits that keep their eyes healthy.
While it is certainly convenient to grab a pair of sunglasses from a convenience store on the way to the beach, it may not be the most effective option. Just because a pair of shades is dark, doesn’t mean it is providing proper protection. Ensure the sunglasses you purchase say they are capable of blocking 100% of UV rays (both A and B) and most HEV rays.
Putting hats or sunglasses on your kids and limiting their exposure to the sun are all effective ways that parents can practice pediatric eye care at home. A large part of pediatric eye care, however, is routine check ups by an eyecare professional. The American Optometric Association recommends parents take their children for eye exams at six months, three years of age, and every 1-2 years during school age.
Vision First Eye Center’s eye care professionals in Alabaster, Birmingham, Pell City and Trussville are committed to providing quality eye care for both individuals and families. Call us today to book an annual eye exam for your child and to learn more about proactive pediatric eye care.