Mom to Mom: Meet Joe Cool (Sun Safety)
My 5-year-old son’s baseball team nicknamed him “Joe Cool” because he will not go anywhere without his sunglasses. It is a habit that formed because he is so sensitive to the bright Phoenix sun. Yes, he is blue-eyed and fair-skinned, which does add to his sensitivity. However, since the sun can damage anyone's eyes, no matter the eye color or skin tone, it is a good idea for all children to get in the habit of wearing sunglasses.
I am never without my sunglasses, either. Sometimes even being in a store with a lot of natural light hurts my eyes. One year, I lost my sunglasses and drove around for a week without them. I now have a permanent growth on my eye called pterygium (it is a small noncancerous bump on the white of the eye, close to the cornea).
As I learned during that week, it’s the daily exposure from the sun that leads to pterygium and other harmful diseases of the eye including cataracts and macular degeneration. There is no way to reverse these diseases after they occur, but if you already suffer from such a disease, starting to wear sunglasses will slow the progression.
While most people are careful about putting on sunscreen, proper eye care can take a back seat. So the younger your child, the easier it might be to instill the habit of wearing sunglasses.
Some important things to keep in mind when shopping for sunglasses:
- The FDA recommends you find sunglasses that block 98 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. The label should read "UV 400" or "100% UV protection." This is the optimal protection and will keep your eyes healthy. Keep in mind you don’t necessarily have to buy high-priced sunglasses; inexpensive lenses can be just as effective. It’s the blockage of UVA and UVB rays you need to be concerned about.
- As for little ones, if it’s too difficult to get your baby or toddler to wear sunglasses, use a visor or a hat to help shield their face from the sun. The light or dark of a lens is up to you or your child – it does not necessarily make a difference in blockage from the sun.
- Make sure sunglasses fit comfortably or you will most likely not want to wear them. Sunglasses should be comfortable on your face and have a slightly snug fit.
It's important to note the sun can glaringly reflect off sand, water, pavement, and even a car windshield. So once you make the decision to buy sunglasses, it's important to remember to wear them to get beneficial eye protection.
Note: This information was reviewed by Sherri Horwitz, OD, PC, in Mesa, Ariz.
Mom to Mom is a column written by Mary Parra, an Ahwatukee mother of four and a local journalist.