As spring arrives and summer looms around the corner, now is a great time to start thinking about protecting your children from the damaging effects of sunlight. Knowledge is power, and more and more each year is understood about sun damage as researchers around the globe put time and money into the subject. It is important that this information makes its way from the scientists to parents. There are numerous injuries and underlying health risks that can be caused by the sun – all of which can be avoided with adequate precautions. This guide seeks to arm parents with the knowledge to ensure their children are safe and happy when playing out in the sun.
Protecting children’s eyes from the sun
Many people who apply sun block do not wear sunglasses. This is also the case with children, which is problematic when you consider that children spend a lot more time outside than adults. It’s almost impossible to keep children inside on a sunny day – and why would you want to. According to Allaboutvision.com, some experts even suggest that as children and teenagers spend so much time outdoors, up to half of their entire life’s sunlight exposure might occur before they are 18!
Experts all seem to agree that protecting your children’s eyes is just as important as protecting their skin. Children’s eyes are also more at risk than adults’ eyes, as their softer lenses are less able to filter out the high-energy UV rays and high-energy visible (HEV) radiation. Overexposure to sunlight is directly linked to a range of problems, including but not limited to the following conditions:
- Eyelid cancers account for 5–10% of all skin cancers
- Conjunctival cancers (the outer layer of your eye)
- You can also contract cancer in your uveal tract, which is the layer of your eye that contains your iris
- Macular degeneration (vision lost often associated with old age)
- Cataracts (the clouding and/or yellowing of your lens)
- Pterygia (benign growths on your eye’s conjunctiva)
- Keratitis (this is sunburn of your cornea, which is the clear, refractive part of the eye in front of the lens)
The UVA, UVB, and HEV radiation in sunlight is what damages our eyes, causing the various diseases and complications listed above. UVA and UVB radiation is invisible, so fake, low-quality, or toy sunglasses are a big problem for children, as they sometimes do not offer protection from the sun, despite offering shade from visible light. This means that children wearing toy sunglasses have shade from the bright visible light. This causes their eyes to relax in the sun, but it offers no protection whatsoever from the harmful UV rays. In fact, the wearer’s eyes relax in the sun from the shade, allowing more invisible UV rays into their eyes than if they weren’t wearing sunglasses.
So, it is important to source high-quality children’s sunglasses that come with full UV protection. Most good retailers will only sell sunglasses with UV protection, but it’s better to ask – just to be on the safe side. For many parents, it’s necessary to save money where they can. This is why it is advisable to shop at online sunglasses shops. You can save money by skipping the middle man, buying directly from an original brand like Foster Grant that has a great range of cheap, 100% UV-protected sunglasses for kids. Other online sunglasses shops buy stock in bulk from the top brands so they can sell them a little cheaper than you might expect from high-street shops. If the prices are low enough, it’s a good idea to buy two pairs of children’s sunglasses – so that you have a back-up should they inevitably break or lose them.
A range of items from Foster Grant’s kid’s sunglasses range
It’s also important to make sure your child likes their sunglasses. It’s hard to make any child wear something they don’t like. And even if you do, chances are they’ll take them off as soon as you’re out of sight. However, if you allow your child to choose their favourite pair of sunglasses, finding a pair that they truly love, then they are much more likely to keep them on. Children care about how they look and take pride in their appearance, so giving them a little fashion freedom might mean their eyes remain protected – even when you’re not around.
It is also a good idea to encourage your child to wear a hat on very sunny days, as the additional shade stops light from coming in from above and at the sides of your child’s sunglasses.
Protecting children’s skin from the sun
Most people are aware of the potential damage sunlight can cause their skin. As with eye health, the risks are even greater with children, as they spend much more time playing out in the sun. Their skin is also often softer and paler than adults’ skin, meaning it is more vulnerable to sun damage. It’s also important to note that although children with darker skin are significantly less likely to suffer from sunburn than children with pale skin, they can still contract skin cancer and should always be encouraged to wear sun cream.
The best way to avoid sun damage is to avoid the sun. Encourage your children to stay in the shade – especially during the hottest time of day (between 10am and 4pm). However, depending on where you live, this might not be possible, so make sure you apply adequate sunscreen. For babies and young children, apply at least SPF 30, and it’s still advisable to keep it high for older children and teenagers as well. Your children can work on their tan when they’re older, when they understand the risks. Apply sun cream liberally, and reapply every couple of hours or so. It’s also important to apply sunscreen when your children are swimming, as UV rays still penetrate the surface of the water. And remember to reapply the sunscreen after they get out of the water.
It’s also advisable to make your children wear hats that offer their faces with a little shade. A brim of around 10cms is ideal in order to cover their neck, ears, eyes, and their scalp. It’s also good for children to wear loose-fitting tightly woven fabric that covers theirs arms and legs. Some clothing is made with special sun-protective fabric; look out for clothing that is labelled as offering sun protection – you should be able to find it in most good children’s clothing stores.
The final piece of advice is to educate your children about the dangers of sun damage, both to their eyes and to their skin. Don’t scare them, but give them a little knowledge about the dangers of UV light; it will encourage them to treat the sun with respect. You can’t watch them every second of the day, so talking to them, teaching them how to keep themselves safe, could go a long way.