“Sun exposure harms eyes the same way it does skin,” says Tanya Sitter, an optometrist in Olds, Alta. Even one day spent outdoors without protection can contribute to longterm damage (including cataracts and loss of vision later in life) or even cause a sunburn on the cornea (the outer layer of the eye). A sunburn will lead to red, watery, sorelooking eyes and is most common a fter a day spent boating or on a dock where the reflective surface of the water means even more rays reach the face and eyes.
The first line of defence to protect little peepers is to keep them out of the sun. Use a UV cover on your stroller and stick to shady spots as much as possible when you’re outdoors. In addition to seeking shade, ensure kids are always wearing protection. This means a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. (Ones with stretchy, adjustable straps are more likely to stay put.)
“Parents should make sure they buy good quality sunglasses,” says Sitter, who adds you don’t need to choose an expensive pair. Look for frames that say “100 percent UV protection” or “UV 400,” which means they cover the full spectrum of rays. Same goes for swimming and sports goggles for babies and big kids.
Got the gear but still can’t keep them covered? Some kids will be prone to pulling hats and glasses off,” says Sitter. “My kids are one and three and I’ve found that allowing them to choose what they wear helps a lot. What I’d pick out for my son might not be what he likes, and if he likes it, he’s more likely to wear it.”
Aside from making sun protection fun, let kids discover the comfort it offers, too. “Sometimes if you let them squint for a few moments before you slide their glasses on, they might decide that they like them a bit more.”
Did you know?
Most kids soak up as much as 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure — and cause the most long-term damage — before age 18.