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This post was most recently updated on November 7th, 2019
When was the last time you saw a baby or young child with sunglasses on? Seeing children with sunglasses on is a rare sight, but this really shouldn’t be the case. When the sun is out and bright. as adults we naturally reach for our sunglasses, but what about our little ones?
Children should have their eyes protected from harmful UV rays just as much as adults should, if not more.
Most people tend to think of sunglasses for children as just a fashion accessory because they are little, cute and adorable, but we really should be thinking about them as a health necessity.
Why babies must wear sunglasses
Most parent wouldn’t even imagine letting their child go outside into the sun without putting the proper sunblock and you should feel the same way about sunglasses for your baby. Just like how your child’s skin is still thin and sensitive when they are young, their eyes are also not fully developed.
In the eyes of an adult, the lens has yellow pigment in which absorb UV and expels the energy in a safe manner. During the first 3 years of a child’s life, the lens is mostly clear and slowly develops in the years after that. This allows much more UV to reach the retina in children and increases the risk of internal eye damage.
In addition to having eyes not capable of filtering out UV, Children also have a tendency to spend much more time outside than adults do. The World Health Organization estimates that a person is exposed to 80% of their lifetime’s exposure to UV before the age of 18. Although it has been a while since that data was released, and kids definitely do not play outside as much as they did before 2009.
What parents should keep in mind
UV damage is built up and is cumulative and therefore being proactive about protecting those young eyes while your child is young may save them from problematic eye conditions later in life. To give your child the best protection from the sun, keep these tips in mind.
- Sunglasses UV protection – Always look for sunglasses for your child that blocks 99-100% of UV light. Try to stay away from low-quality sunglasses as low-quality lenses might not be giving your child the proper eye protection. Lower quality lenses occasionally could have distortion on the lenses, which could cause unwanted distractions and headaches.
- Wide brim hat – Having your child wear a wide-brimmed hat or a standard baseball cap could significantly reduce UV exposure. Remember though the wide brim hat alone may not be adequate protection, the hat will protect from UV rays from above but UV also reflects off the ground as well.
- Stay out of peak sunlight – Keeping children indoors during the times when the sun is highest in the sky and the most intense during the time period between 10 am and 4 pm. The sun rays are at their peak during these times and the rays are at their strongest.
- Polycarbonate lenses – Since children are generally more active, it is definitely recommended that any eyewear they are wearing is polycarbonate. Polycarbonate lenses are much more impact-resistant than standard plastic and could reduce the risk of any eye injuries.
- Durable frames – Since these frames are going to be for our little ones you are going to want them to be as durable as possible. You can’t expect your baby to keep them on the entire time, and there will be moments when they are just playing with them so you are going to want them to be durable.
- Gray tint – When you are picking out sunglasses for your baby, you should always only pick out gray tinted lenses. Gray reduces all colors evenly and does not interfere with proper color recognition for the baby. How dark the tint is generally doesn’t matter as long as the glasses have UV protection.
- Large lenses – When picking out a pair of sunglasses for your child you want to pick a frame with lenses that are large enough to give your baby the proper protection. You want the sunglasses to protect the eyes as well as the skin surrounding the eye.
- Be careful around water & snow – This is an important one but it can easily be forgotten if you are not careful. If you are hanging out around large bodies of water or spending a winter day up in the snow, remember that water and snow reflect a lot of the sun’s UV rays with snow being the most intense. This could lead to a sunburn of the cornea in your children’s eyes, keep an eye out for any unexplained crankiness.
- Altitude – Keep in mind that your attitude has a direct correlation with the intensity of the UV rays. The higher up in elevation the fewer UV rays being filtered out by the atmosphere. So, if you’re planning a snow day this winter, don’t forget the sunglasses.
- Get a strap – If you are getting sunglasses for an infant child it might be a good idea to get a frame that comes with an elastic strap or ear adjuster to help keep the glasses on.
If your baby needs prescription glasses
There is a variety of different ways you can actually approach this if your child needs prescription glasses. The lenses for prescription glasses for children are generally polycarbonate lenses, and polycarbonate lenses naturally filter out UV light. But there are additional options that you can get to provide a more comfortable viewing experience for them.
- Photochromic lenses – Or also known as Transitions or variable tint lenses. These lenses get dark when they are exposed to UV light. These lenses make it more comfortable when you are out in bright sunlight, but clear up when indoors. These lenses help reduce the glare from the sun while giving your child protection from UV rays. Another added benefit is transition lenses naturally filter out some blue light which is beneficial when your child is looking at digital devices and best of all you don’t need to carry around multiple pairs.
- Prescription sunglasses – This is also a good option, especially if your child tends to spend extended periods of time outdoors. The sunglass lenses should have 100% UV protection and they should be gray.
- Good fit frame – Just as if you were looking for non-prescription sunglasses you should make sure that the frame fits well and the lens is large enough to color your child’s eyes as well as the skin surrounding the eye. For infant children consider getting an elastic band to help keep the glasses on. Oh, and it’s going to be a good idea to make sure it is a durable frame as well.
Whether your little family likes to spend days at the beach, spend a day out at the theme park, or hanging out by the pool always remember to grab all the things you need to protect your children’s eyes. Keep in mind that even if you do not wear sunglasses to protect your eyes that doesn’t mean that your child doesn’t need protection. But there should be no reason for you not to be wearing sunglasses plus it sets a good example for your child to follow.
If you are looking to purchase sunglasses for your child and you don’t know where to start, check out my #1 recommended baby shades here.
If you have any questions or concerns, I would love to hear your thoughts, drop a comment below!
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