It's almost summer Down Under and time to think about protecting our skin from that harsh Aussie sun. But do we think about our eyes and the eyes of our babies in the same way?
How many babies do you see wearing sunnies (sunglasses)?Yes, I see a lot of adults wearing sunglasses and I see babies wearing sun hats but not sunglasses!
We've got our 5 Ss ingrained into us:
- Slip on a T-shirt
- Slip on a hat
- Seek out the shade
- Slide on the sunglasses
We know that ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause both short-term eye problems and permanent eye damage. Short-term problems include excessive blinking, swelling and difficulty looking at strong light. UV exposure can also cause acute photo keratopathy, which is sunburn of the cornea, like snow blindness or welders’ flash burns.
Exposure to UV radiation over long periods can cause more serious damage to the eyes, including
- Cataracts (cloudiness of the lens), which may require surgery
- Solar keratopathy (cloudiness of the cornea)
- Cancer of the conjunctiva (the membrane covering the white part of the eye)
- Skin cancer of the eyelids and around the eyes
- Pterygium (pronounced tur-rig-i-um), an overgrowth of the conjunctiva onto the cornea
- We also know that sun damage to the eye is greater at 8-10 am and 2-4 pm. It's the angle of the sun at those times that does the most damage.
- The best prevention is to keep baby in the shade.
We don't know how long it takes to get these conditions or exactly how much sun exposure is too much. So until we do its best to prevent the problem by keeping baby in the shade or wearing sunglasses when exposed to bright sunlight.
To protect the eyes, look for sunglasses that:
- Are a close-fitting, wrap-around style that cover as much of the eye area as possible and that they can't poke in their eyes!
- Meet the Australian Standard.
- Are preferably eye protection factor (EPF) 106.
- Have soft elastic to keep them in place.
- Toy or fashion-labelled sunglasses do not meet the requirements for sunglasses under the Australian Standard and should not be used for sun protection.
- Remember that even without wearing sunglasses, wearing a hat with a brim that shades the eyes can reduce UV radiation to the eyes by 50%.