Getting your kids into the routine of applying sunscreen can be a daily chore. But it’s important to also remember that UV light from the sun is just as hazardous to the eyes as it is to the skin. UV exposure at any age can contribute to cataracts and macular degeneration.
In addition, sunlight isn’t the only risk to eyes during the summer. Sand from the beach, chlorine in the pool, and dry dirt caught in a hot summer breeze can cause irritation.
Consider the following tips for keeping children’s eyes protected this summer season:
Know the conditions
Exposure to UV rays increases at high altitudes, in tropical locales, and in highly reflective environments such as on the water or on a sandy beach. Sunlight is strongest mid-day and early afternoon and can also pass through clouds and haze. It’s important to have children wear sunglasses even when it’s not sunny and remind them never to look directly at the sun, which can damage the retina.
Choose the right sunglasses
From infants to teens, it’s crucial for children to wear sunglasses that provide adequate protection against UV radiation. When shopping for sunglasses, look for a label that says 100 percent protection against UVA and UVB or 100 percent protection against UV 400, which covers both ray lengths. If your child wears prescription eyeglasses, he or she should also wear prescription sunglasses, eyeglasses with photochromic (transition) lenses, or clip-on lenses that attach to normal glasses. You can additionally minimize UV exposure by adding a hat with a brim at least three inches wide to your child’s summer style.
Grab the goggles
Hours of swimming can lead to red, irritated eyes by the end of the day. Encourage your child to wear goggles in natural bodies of water to protect eyes from contaminants and in swimming pools to prevent irritation from chlorine and other chemicals. In addition, older children and teenagers who wear contact lenses should take them out while swimming, since there are organisms in water that can stick to the lenses and cause corneal ulcers.
Yardwork is a great summer job for teens, but weed removal and lawn mower projectiles can shoot in the eye and cause corneal lacerations. Always remind older children to wear eye protection when working outside, and be sure younger children do not play near areas where yard work is being done.
It’s great for kids to get outside and play in the summer. However, children should wear protective eye gear while participating in sporting events, especially those with smaller balls like baseball, softball, badminton and tennis. Foam ammunition and paintball battles are also activities that can lead to serious injuries without proper eye protection.
Be prepared to flush out eyes
If suntan lotion or grains of sand get into a child’s eye, flush them out with clean water or saline solution. When flushing a child’s eye, hold the eyelid open and pour a steady flow of water through the eye to the inner corner. You may need assistance to help hold the eye open. After the eye is flushed, if irritation doesn’t get better within two to three hours, it is important to seek medical attention.
For more information on summer eye protection and safety tips, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology website.