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Children may not be interested in the fashion aspect of sunglasses, but given that kids spend much more time outdoors than most adults, sunglasses that block 100 percent of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays are an important consideration.
In fact, according to some experts, up to half of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV radiation can occur by age 18. (Other research cited by The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests the amount of lifetime exposure to UV radiation sustained by age 18 is less than 25 percent.)
Given that excessive lifetime exposure to UV radiation has been linked to the development of cataracts and other eye problems, it’s never too early for kids to begin wearing good quality sunglasses outdoors.
UV rays aren’t the only potential danger from sunlight. Recently, researchers have suggested that long-term exposure to high-energy visible (HEV) light rays, also called “blue light,” may also cause eye damage over time. In particular, some believe a high lifetime exposure to HEV light may contribute to the development of macular degeneration later in life.
Children’s eyes are more susceptible to UV and HEV radiation than adult eyes because the lens inside a child’s eye is less capable of filtering these high-energy rays. This is especially true for young children, so it’s wise for kids to start wearing protective sunglasses outdoors as early in life as possible.
It is also important to consider that your child’s exposure to UV rays increases at high altitudes, in tropical regions and in highly reflective environments (such as in a snowfield, on the water or on a sandy beach). Protective sun wear is especially important for kids in these situations.
Choosing sunglass lens colours
The level of UV protection that sunglasses provide is not related to the colour of the lenses.
As long as your optician certifies that the lenses block 100 percent of the sun’s UV rays, the choice of colour and tint density is a matter of personal preference.
Most sunglass lenses that block the sun’s HEV rays are amber or copper in colour. By blocking blue light, these lenses also enhance contrast, a positive feature for outdoor sports and cycling.
Sunglass styles for children
Colourful, adolescent frame styles are still available, but sunglass companies have found a niche in appealing to children’s desire to look like their parents or older siblings.
Oval, round, rectangular, cat-eye and geometric shapes are all popular in cool, sophisticated colours like green, blue, tortoise and black. Metal frames are very popular, but so are plastic sunglass frames that look like scaled-down versions of trendy adult styles. Also, sporty styles for kids like wraparounds are available in miniature adult editions.
Where to buy kids’ sunglasses
The best places to find kids’ sunglasses or obtain advice regarding them, are sunglass specialty stores like your local optician or optical shop.
Some opticians even specialise in children’s sunglasses and eyeglasses and have dedicated areas just for kids to play and shop for their frames.
Wherever you go, look for a good selection of sunglass frames scaled specifically for a child’s facial dimensions and a professional staff experienced in fitting children’s eyewear.
Winter can be harsh on our eyes. From the damaging reflection of sun on snow and ice to the discomfort of dry eye, our most precious sense is often under attack during the winter season. Check out our top tips for warding off eye health problems as the cold starts to bite.
Protection against UV rays
Snow and ice are reflective, meaning the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can reach your eyes from below as well as above you. If snow has fallen in your area, or if you’re off on a skiing holiday, you should be considering wearing protective glasses to reduce the damage that can be caused by the sun’s reflection. UV exposure is cumulative so although you may not feel any immediate effects, you could be putting yourself at risk of long term damage to the retina and lens of the eye by increasing the risk of developing conditions such as cataracts and possibly AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) over time.
The glare of a low-lying sun on icy roads can also cause difficulty for drivers, even for those with good vision so it’s really important to make sure your windscreen is clean, both inside and out. It’s useful to have a pair of sunglasses in the car to help with this. If you wear spectacles, sunglasses can be made to your prescription, including bifocals and varifocals.
If you are venturing off to the ski slopes then buy good quality, specially designed sunglasses or goggles. Check for confirmation that they comply with the safety standard BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013, or are made by a reputable manufacturer and have a CE mark. The CE mark is the manufacturer’s assurance that they meet European safety standards.
Dry eyes can cause itchiness or scratchiness, as well as blurred vision. The condition is not usually serious, however there are some rare cases where severe untreated dry eye has led to scarring of the eye’s surface. Dry eye may be caused because your eyes do not produce enough tears, or because the tears that you do produce evaporate too quickly or do not spread evenly across the front of your eye. The treatment depends upon the cause, so it is important to speak to your optometrist if your eyes feel dry. If your eyes are dry because they do not produce enough tears you may find eye drops, gels or ointments that contain ‘tear substitutes’, helpful. These are designed to lubricate your eyes and are available from many optometrists or from a pharmacy without prescription.
There are some simple steps you can take to minimise the discomfort caused by dry eyes:
• Lower the temperature in rooms – high temperatures make tears evaporate more quickly
• Blink more – many people find that their dry eye gets worse during tasks such as reading or computer work because we unconsciously blink less when we are doing anything that needs lots of visual attention
• Use a humidifier at work and at home – this will help moisten the surrounding air. If you cannot afford a humidifier, lightly spraying your curtains with water several times a day can help keep the air moist. Opening windows for a few minutes on cold days, and longer in the spring and summer, will also help to keep the air moist.
In cold and windy conditions, many people complain of their eyes watering more than normal. Typically, the symptoms of watery eye are excessive tearing which is made worse by being outdoors. Wearing spectacles will provide protection against the wind, even if you don’t usually wear them outdoors. In some cases, excessive watering of the eyes may be a sign of blocked tear ducts or infection of the eye. If you are concerned about the health of your eyes, then visit your optometrist who will be able to advise you on the best course of action.
Tired eyes / eye fatigue
People often find doing tasks such as reading, writing and sewing more difficult in the winter because there is less natural light available. There is little evidence to suggest that this causes our eyes any long-term damage, however if our eyes are having to work harder to focus then this may lead to eyestrain. It is normal to find that it is easier to see things when the light is good, so we would recommend having an angle-poise lamp or similar, whilst under taking near vision tasks, as this will help. Your optometrist will be happy to recommend suitable lighting.
The College of Optometrists offers advice to skiers and snowboarders to protect their eyes on the slopes
The College of Optometrists is urging winter sports fans to make sure they are adequately protecting their eyes when out on the slopes this winter. Although clear skies and deep powder provide perfect skiing conditions; snow is reflective, so the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are much more powerful on the slopes than elsewhere – posing a risk to eye health.
Dr Susan Blakeney, the College’s Clinical Adviser explains: “It’s important that when snowboarders and skiers are getting kitted out for the slopes they get goggles to protect their eyes. As snow can reflect significantly more light than normal ground surfaces, it is vital that you protect your eyes by wearing goggles or sunglasses that are specifically designed for winter sports, and are made to the relevant safety standard to ensure they absorb sufficient UV.
“UV exposure is cumulative so, although you may not feel any immediate effects you could be putting yourself at risk of long term damage as sunlight may damage your eyes, increasing the long-term risk of developing conditions such as cataracts and possibly AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration). If you are not sure of the best protective eyewear for you, ask your optometrist before travelling.”
Here are Dr Blakeney’s top tips for looking after your eyes on the slopes:
- Wear goggles if possible – sunlight can be reflected off the surface of the snow and sunglasses may not provide sufficient all round protection.
- If you’re going on a family holiday don’t forget about your children – their eyes are more receptive to UV than adult eyes, so UV protection is particularly important for them.
- If you do choose sunglasses, look for the stamp that says they comply with the safety standard BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013 and have a CE mark – the manufacturer’s assurance that they meet European safety standards.
- There are four categories of tint in the BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013 standard. Category 4 (the darkest) is designed for protection against extreme sun-glare for example over snowfields or on high mountains. Ask your optometrist to show you glasses in this category.
- Choose eyewear that fits comfortably – make sure it is the right size for you, and unlikely to fall off in the event of sudden movements or higher winds.
- Wear a hat that covers the rim of your glasses to protect your eyes from direct over head sunlight.
- People who wear glasses can wear sunglasses too – sunglasses can be made to any prescription.