We all know that the sun is harmful for our eyes, so why is it that kids aren’t wearing sunglasses anywhere near as much as adults?
At The Eye Practice, we encourage all our clients to wear sun protection themselves and ensure their kids do too. This post looks at why this is and what you can do to encourage your kids to wear their sunnies.
Why is the sun more dangerous in Australia?
The generally accepted urban myth is that there’s a hole in the protective ozone layer over Australia that lets in higher levels of UV. But this is not strictly true…
The ozone layer is thin over the south pole especially in late winter when temperatures are coldest. But this only affects Tasmania and southern Victoria and it’s a small effect because it occurs at a time of year when most people are covered up due to the weather. The ozone layer was previously damaged by pollutants (remember CFCs from fridges and aerosols?) But since the Montreal Protocol was put in place to ban these pollutants, the ozone hole has reduced.
If not ozone, then what?
The real reason why the sun is more dangerous in Australia is because it’s about 15% stronger than in the Northern hemisphere! This is for two reasons:
- The earth travels around the sun in an elliptical path – which means it’s a little nearer to the sun at some points in its orbit than others.
- It happens that it is nearest to the sun (by 3.4%) on the 3rd of January (the middle of the Australian summer) and furthest from the sun (by 3.4%) on 3rd July (the middle of the Northern hemisphere summer).
- This increases UV light by 7% in the Australian summer (compared to summer in Europe or North America).
- The second reason is that there are less people living in the southern hemisphere and less industry and therefore less pollutants. The air is cleaner.
- This makes the UV penetration higher than the more polluted north by about 7%. Add the two together and you find that Aussie summers get about 15% more UV exposure compared to northern ones.
Is UV light bad for kids eyes?
We are always amazed by this question! We know that UV light is harmful to adults eyes and is implicated in a range of eye diseases including cataract, pterygium, eye cancers and macula disease. So, why would we let our little darlings sit on a beach all day without protection? Fair-skinned, blue-eyed children in particular are more prone to penetration of UV light into their eyes.
Outdoor play IS actually GOOD for children's eyes and is one way to reduce the risk of developing myopia. But in summer, especially in glarey conditions (such as near water or sand) sunglasses will protect your child's eyes from the harmful effects of UV light.
Slip, slop, slap, seek and slide…
Everyone’s familiar with the old ‘slip, slop, slap’ campaign: slip on a t-shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat. But the Australian Cancer Council have added two more components: ‘seek’ shade and ‘slide’ on some sunglasses.
How do I get my kids to wear sunglasses?
- Kids are the best mimics around, so if you routinely wear your sunglasses, your kids are much more likely to follow your lead.
- Make it a habit that leaving the house you check you’ve got your hat and sunnies as well as applying your sunscreen.
- Model good sun habits by sporting your shades year-round – even on overcast days.
- Keep your kids' sunglasses in your bag (rather than letting them take care of them).
- Let them choose the style they like! Several kids’ clothing and accessory stores carry sunglasses, including mirrored and aviator styles. Or, talk to your optometrist about what they have in children’s sunglasses.
Do all sunglasses offer the same protection?
No. But all sunglasses legally for sale in Australia are tested and labelled according to Australian standards.
Check the label for the code: AS/NZS 1067:2003.
- Even cheap sunglasses from the pharmacy or clothing accessory store will be labelled, so check the label and make sure the lens category is at least 2 (and 3 is even better). These will provide moderate to high protection from UV light from the sun.
- Wrap around styles offer more protection that other styles, do their close-fitting design.
How much should kids’ sunglasses cost?
Kids lose things, so there’s no point in spending a fortune on sunglasses. If it’s sun protection you’re after, as long as they comply with the AS standard and are graded 2 or 3, it doesn’t matter how cheap they are. If you want a good quality frame that will resist the rigours of childhood, The Eye Practice stocks children’s sunglasses from about $65.