Summer Eyecare for Children

It’s summer and the season to spend lots of time out of doors in the sun.  Increased outdoor activity and exposure to ultraviolet rays also means your child’s eyes are at increased risk.

New research shows that children’s eyes can be damaged from sun exposure, just like their skin.  This damage can increase the risk of developing diseases such as cataracts or macular generation when they become adults.

A child’s lens allows 70% more ultraviolet rays to reach the retina than in an adult according to pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Mark Borchert.  Most parents protect their children’s skin from UV exposure but few know that their child should be wearing sunglasses as well.

Here are some great tips for enjoying your time in the sun this summer:

1.  Kids should wear sunglasses – especially if they are younger.  You can purchase inexpensive sunglasses many places but make sure the glasses are rated to block both UVA and UVB radiation.  It is best to purchase glasses with a polycarbonate lenses.  Children under six may need a strap to keep the glasses in place.

2.  Wear protective eye gear for ball sports.  Each year more than 18,000 sports related eye injuries are seen in US hospitals.  While many children are required to wear helmets while playing ball (baseball, softball, basketball, racket sports including tennis) there is usually no requirement for protective goggles or eyewear.  Regular eyewear is not recommended as it is not usually secured to the head.

3.  Use a non-irritating sunscreen.  Adult sunscreen will generally work for your entire family.  However, if your child develops a rash try another brand.  Suncreens that are PABA free or that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide also tend to be less irritating.

4.  Check the chlorine level in the pool.  Too little chlorine in a pool can cause algae and bacteria to grow which can lead to eye infections.  Also check the levels of chloramines and the pH of the pool to avoid stinging and redness of the eyes.  Goggles are a good way to avoid any eye irritation in the pool.  Persistent irritation of the eyes and redness, especially after showering could be an indication of an infection and a visit to a physician may be necessary.