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Parents Urged To Protect Children’s Eyes From Sun Damage

August 18, 2009

Experts warn that 75 percent of parents expose their children to bright sunlight without real protection.

A poll of 2,000 people by the College of Optometrists showed that almost a third of parents in Britain do not buy sunglasses for their children.

Out of the ones who do provide sunglasses for their children, almost 50 percent put price before protection and only 25 percent buy sunglasses from a trusted brand.

The College encourages parents to pick dark glasses with a CE mark for quality.

People with light colored eyes have the highest risk of getting sun damage, and experts urge those with blue eyes to always wear sunglasses.

Sunlight emits UV rays that can damage the retina and the lens of the eye, leading to long-term damage.

Conditions like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration often develop from too much exposure to UV rays.

When people wear cheap sunglasses that do not offer UV protection, they are at greater risk than those with no protection at all because the eye is still shaded, allowing more damaging rays into the eye.

The more UV exposure a person has over time, the higher their risk will be.

Optometric adviser Dr Susan Blakeney at the College of Optometrists, said: “I am shocked to see that so many parents aren’t ensuring that their child’s eyes are protected in the sun, and am equally astounded to see that of those who do, many are opting for ‘cheap and cheerful’ over quality.”

She added, “Sunglasses don’t need to be expensive to offer good protection but it is important for parents to check that the pair they buy carry a CE mark.”

While most children would gladly wear sunglasses, she says a sunhat that shades the eyes would be sufficient. She especially recommended a sunhat for infants who tend to pull glasses off their faces. 

Research may show mixed results about whether UV causes significant damage, but it is better to err on the side of protection.

According to consultant pediatric ophthalmologist Michael Clarke, the issue is up for debate.

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists recommends that children always wear protective sunglasses when they are likely to be exposed to a lot of UV light, such as during a day spent outdoors at the beach.

The college strongly emphasized that very young children should not be exposed to bright sunshine at all.

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