Keeping your Children’s Eyes Safe this Fourth of July

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7 out of 10 children do not wear sunglasses outdoors.  This is an alarming statistic. Why do you think so many kids do not wear sunglasses?
One of the main reasons that many children do not wear sunglasses is because their parents don’t know they should! While parents are sure to protect their children’s skin with sunscreen, many parents do not realize that their eyes are susceptible to the sun’s rays as well.
Additionally, children, particularly infants, are often uncomfortable when wearing sunglasses for the first time and it can take a while for them to adjust to the feeling. Just like it takes time for an infant to get use to hats and headbands, it takes time for children to get use to sunglasses. If a child still refuses to acclimate to sunglasses, try having them wear a hat instead to help protect their eyes.
child sunglasses
Why is it so important to protect your child’s eyes from UVA/UVB rays?
Just like with our skin, the earlier in life one is exposed to the sun’s harmful rays, the more damaging the effects will be later in life. With extended exposure, UVA and UVB rays can cause cataracts, macular degeneration, and even melanomas (cancerous growths both inside and around the eyes), all of which can cause blindness.
Are fireworks harmful to children’s eyes?  How do they affect eye health?
Watching fireworks from a safe distance is not damaging to a child’s eye health, but they can be if used improperly. According to Prevent Blindness America, a majority of eye injuries are caused by firecrackers, sparklers and roman candles, of which one-third are to children.
In order to avoid eye injuries from fireworks, make sure to attend an authorized, public firework show organized by licensed professionals, and not to get too close in case they shoot off in the wrong direction. Additionally, children (and parents) should wear eye protection, such as safety goggles, if you are near them. And obviously, never let children play with fireworks.
If an accident does happen and you or your child is injured, cut out and place the bottom of a paper cup around the area and head straight to the emergency room. Avoid rubbing, rinsing, ointment or direct pressure to the eye as it may make the injury worse.
What preventable eye problems often occur in children? 
Most eye problems in children are preventable, particularly if they are caught early, but make sure to see an eye doctor if your child is experiencing any of these symptoms.
  • Loses his or her place while reading
  • Avoids close work
  • Tends to rub his or her eyes
  • Has headaches
  • Turns or tilts his or her head
  • Squints while reading or watching television
  • Holds reading material closer than normal
  • Has behavioral problems
When should children start wearing sunglasses?
Children should start wearing sunglasses as soon as possible, especially during the brighter, summer months. And, the sooner parents start putting sunglasses on their kids, the more likely they are to wear them.
Do you have any other advice or tips for parents regarding children’s eye health that would benefit our readers?
Protecting your kid’s eyes now with UVA/UVB certified sunglasses and ensuring that they receive annual eye exams will help them to reduce their risk of cataracts, glaucoma and melanoma! To get more information on how to keep your children’s eyes healthy, visit www.vsp.com.
By VSP Optometrist Dr. Stephanie Kirschbaum for the Healthy Moms Magazine
Dr. Stephanie Kirschbaum is a VSP optometrist in Grass Valley, CA. She has been practicing for more than 25 years and specializes in children 0-5, safety eye wear, and sports eye wear.
Keeping your Children’s Eyes Safe this Fourth of July
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