Ahh…it’s finally summertime and for all the families out there, that means more fun in the sun and less bouncing of the walls. My 3-year-old daughter thrives on Vitamin D and N (Nature) and is the first to rip off her coat, shoes and socks to dig in and play hard.
(My daughter, Lily Love rocking her protective shades. Photo credit: Jordan Manfredi)
For most kids, spending time outside, making memories is what the next 3 months are all about. As parents, we love all the wonderful benefits that outdoor play has to offer, but also want to make sure our kiddos are properly protected. Sunscreen, as we know is key to taking care of our kid’s tender skin…but did you know that proper eye protection is just as important?
Since kids tend to spend more time outdoors than most adults, some experts say that nearly half of a person’s lifetime exposure to ultraviolet radiation can take place by age 18. Yikes!
This is because our precious little ones are more susceptible to damage to the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye from UV rays because the lens inside a child’s eye is less capable of blocking UV than an adult lens, enabling more of this harmful radiation to penetrate deep into the eye. (Citation: http://www.allaboutvision.com/parents/sunglasses.htm)
According to Plano, Texas-based Anthony Borgognoni, O.D., “Most people know the damaging effects of UV light on the skin, but far fewer people understand that extended exposure to sunlight in childhood can lead to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Both of those disorders can cause impaired vision or even blindness.
Dr. Borgognoni has a special interest in evangelizing children’s sunglasses. He developed premature cataracts in both eyes at the tender age of 46. And he points to a ton of childhood sun exposure as a likely cause.
“I grew up playing Little League baseball and football all day long in small-town Arkansas,” he says. “In those days, nobody thought much about putting sunglasses on kids to protect their vision.” (Citation: http://www.vsp.com/sunglasses-for-kids.html)
Well, parents, now that we know better, it’s time to do better. Let’s ensure that our children of all ages, even infants, wear UV- and HEV-blocking sunglasses anytime they are outdoors in daylight hours. This is true even on cloudy and overcast days, because most UV rays (which are invisible) and some HEV rays can pass through cloud cover.
Ready to morph into the super parent that you are? Here are top tips on what to look for and what to avoid when buying children’s sunglasses with UV protection:
Kids Sunglasses Buying Tips:
- Spot the sticker. Most sunglasses have a UV-protection sticker. But also look for the American Optometric Association’s Seal of Acceptance. These glasses block 99 to 100% of damaging UV radiation. The best place to find truly protective sunglasses? An optical store, not a kid’s fashion store.
- Go dark. Lenses should block about 75-90% of light. So, before you buy, look at your child with the sunglasses on. You shouldn’t be able see his or her eyes.
- Gray’s the way. Gray lenses are best. They absorb all colors equally, so kids see the world in all its natural colors and glory.
- Beware of Cheap Sunglasses for Children. Many inexpensive children’s sunglasses provide excellent UV protection but beware, as cheap sunglasses for kids can pose other risks. In the recent past, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled several brands of cheap kids sunglasses that had surface paint containing unacceptable levels of lead. And the frames, hinges and lenses of cheap children’s sunglasses are usually not as durable as those of quality kid’s sunglasses.
- Impact-resistant lenses. The best lenses for children’s sunglasses are made of polycarbonate, as these lenses are up to 10 times more impact-resistant than standard plastic lenses. Polycarbonate lenses also are lighter than glass or standard plastic lenses for greater wearing comfort, making them a much better choice for our carefree kids.
- “Unbreakable” frame material. With running wild on the mind, be sure to look for children’s sunglasses that have flexible frames to avoid breakage and potential eye or facial injury from a frame that snaps upon impact.
- Large, close-fitting frame. For the best protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and to keep dust and other debris from getting in your child’s eyes, a relatively large yet close-fitting frame is your best bet, especially if your little one plays sports. “Wrap around” features work wonderfully to help block rays from coming in the sides of the frames.
- Spring hinges. We all hate when our more weathered sunglasses slide off our head. Hinges that extend beyond 90 degrees and have a spring action to keep the fit of the frame snug will help to keep your kid’s sunglasses in place and not on the floor of your car, underneath the cheerios and super heroes.
- An elastic band. As a “responsible” adult, I could even use these! An elastic band that attaches to the end of each of the frame’s earpieces can seriously help prevent loss or damage to your kid’s shades. Choices include a close-fitting band to keep the frame snugly attached to the head during active sports or a looser-fitting strap to allow your child to remove his or her sunglasses yet keep them hanging from the neck for easy on-and-off use. Please be sure to avoid the use of a band or cord that might pose a choking risk for an unattended infant or toddler.
With these tips in mind, you’re set to shop…but where to find the right sunglasses to properly protect your kids? An optical shop that puts your family first is a surefire way to ensure that you’ll get the right protection at the right price. Cohen’s Fashion Optical is a 90-year old family run company that understands how important it is to provide you and your family with eyewear that safeguards your eyes, is right for your personal needs and isn’t overpriced. So scoop up your little ones, stop by one of Cohen’s 130 locations and get ready to take on the sun, surf and sand all summer long.