For instance, there's no doubt that putting knee pads on a child when learning to ride a bike or pulling on warm gloves when going outside in the winter are logical, protective choices. On the other hand, adding a decorative scarf to my outfit or a cute headband to my hair are optional add-ons, just there to look nice.
As for sunglasses, I've typically thought of them in the latter category. Sure, they help you to not have to squint on really sunny days, which is annoying, but their purpose is to look cool... right? I mean, isn't that why I had a pair that looked like these back in the 90's?
The answer is no.
I was fortunate to be a part of a webinar recently presented by The Vision Council to learn more about eye safety and the importance of shielding both my and my kids' eyes from harmful sun exposure. And what I found out has had me reaching for sunglasses — for all of us — ever since.
UV radiation is commonly recognized as the culprit for sunburns and skin cancer, but did you know just how much of a damaging impact it can have on eyes as well?
Short-term vision problems include photokeratitis (sunburn of the eye), irritation, redness, swelling, hyper sensitivity to light and more. However, long-term problems may lead you to premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, sunspots, prerygium (abnormal growth on the eye and eyelid), cataracts, macular degeneration, and even cancer of the eye, eyelid and surrounding skin.
Yikes! That is all far beyond just not looking hip if you forget your sunglasses! With that in mind, it's definitely time to find out all that there is to know about UV safety and what we can do to protect our eyes:
How much of the information in this infographic did you know already? Not much? Me, neither!
But did the section on children stand out to you like it did to me as well? UV damage is cumulative; the older someone is and the more exposure they've had to the sun will result in being more at risk for serious and debilitating vision problems.
Combine that with the the research showing that children receive three times the annual sun exposure of adults and that more than 40% of parents don't proactively ensure their children wear UV protective sunglasses... and I'm especially motivated to reach for my kids' sunglasses every time we walk out the door.
Optometrist Dr. Dora Adamopoulos, a member of the Better Vision Institute and the presenter at the webinar I attended, had great advice for selecting sunglasses for each family member and increasing the likelihood of your children wearing them.
When it comes to protecting your eyes, quality doesn't necessarily translate to high cost and it is truly more important to just focus on wearing UV-protective eyewear (UVA & UVB) as often as possible. That can come in form of:
- Non-prescription sunglasses
- Prescription sunglasses
- Clip-ons or fit-overs
- UV-coated contact lenses
- UV-protective goggles
When it comes to encouraging your children to wear their sunglasses often, first, set a prime example by always wearing your own shades. Next, when it comes to selecting the shades, allow your child to pick their own pair, as letting them decide the style may make them much more prone to wear them. Finally, it is important to make sure that your child's sunglasses fit comfortably. Sunglasses that pinch or are scratched are less likely to be worn!
Whether your family spends a great deal of time outdoors or not, it's time to stop thinking about sunglasses as a fashion maybe, and instead know that they are a safety must. Your eyes are depending on it!
Kids are at a higher risk of UV damage than adults, so be sure to outfit your entire family with eyewear that is going to keep them safe from harm. Researchers actually believe that lighter eyes experience more UV damage (likely due to the fact that they have a lower incidence of melanin, which is a protective pigment) so if you have blue-eyed members of your family, be extra careful!
How often do you wear sunglasses? More importantly, how often do your children?
This post was brought to you by The Vision Council and The Motherhood, however, all thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.