Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic Urges Parents to Encourage Their Children to Wear Proper Eye Protection When Playing Outdoors

As children begin to head out to enjoy the warmer weather, many parents remember to apply sunscreen to protect their children's skin from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. However, many parents may not be aware of the damage that UV rays can have on the eyes. According to the World Health Organization, up to 80 percent of a person's lifetime exposure to UV is received before the age of 18.

In fact, children are more susceptible to UV damage than adults because they tend to spend more time outside than adults. And, according to the American Optometric Association, children are at a greater risk of UV damage because the lenses of their eyes are more transparent, which allows more short wavelength light to reach the retina. UV damage to the eyes is cumulative, meaning it builds over time. UV exposure has been linked to cataracts, macular degeneration and other eye problems.

Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic has declared May as UV Awareness Month to help educate the public on how to protect their eyes for a lifetime of healthy vision. Sunglasses should block out 99-100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. Sunglasses without UV protection may shade the eyes but actually cause the pupils to dilate, allowing in even more harmful rays. When going outside, both adults and children should always wear both a wide-brimmed hat or cap and the proper UV-rated sunglasses.

Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic is asking parents to remember to protect their children's eyes from UV by doing the following:

  • Only purchase sunglasses that offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection. 
  • Make sure the sunglasses fit the child's face and shield the eyes from all angles. 
  • Choose lenses that are impact resistant and made of polycarbonate, never glass, unless prescribed by a doctor. 
  • Make sure lenses are not scratched or damaged. 
  • Purchase wraparound sunglasses to protect eyes as well as the delicate skin around the eyes.

"We need to remember to protect our eyes from UV every day of the year," said Tim Gresham, President and CEO of Prevent Blindness Mid-Atlantic. "UV Rays reflecting off the water, sand, pavement and even snow are extremely dangerous. We can encourage our children to wear the proper eye protection by leading by example."

As part of the new children's eye health and education program "Star Pupils" by Prevent Blindness America, Real Kids Shades, a company dedicated to providing quality eyewear for children is now offering parents the opportunity to help purchase specially designed Star Pupils infant sunglasses that offer 100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection.