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Babies & small children need sunglasses too!
Parents can help prevent photokeratitis
Sacramento, CA (May 2011) – It’s become routine for moms to pack the sunscreen along with the diapers and baby bottles these days, but what they may be forgetting to toss in that diaper bag could be detrimental— Babies need sunglasses too because eyes can get sunburned! Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo has the right idea as she makes sure to protect her daughter Stella’s eyes from those harmful rays (right).
Though it’s widely known that UVA and UVB rays are harmful to the skin, the California Optometric Association warns that UV exposure has been linked to numerous long-term vision problems that develop later in life. “It’s important to be vigilant about accessorizing infants and toddlers in protective eyewear, a preventative measure against photokeratitis, or sunburn of the eyes. This condition causes uncomfortable symptoms that include redness, irritation, blurred vision, temporary vision loss, and, in some instances, blindness.” says Dr. Hillier of the California Optometric Association. The subsequent rubbing of an irritated eye can introduce bacteria, and result in a vision-threatening eye infection. UV radiation is intensified when it’s reflected off water, so beach days can be particularly damaging to your child’s vision. “Remembering to wear sunglasses at the beach is critical, continues Dr. HIllier but it’s also important to wear them when going for a stroll, or participating in any outdoor type of play or activity.”
Although one can easily see and feel when their skin is becoming sunburned, this cannot be said for eyes. Instead, symptoms of sunburned eyes are felt a few hours later and typically include itchiness, burning and a heightened sensitivity to light. This makes taking the precaution all the more important, because babies and tots cannot articulate their symptoms the way adults can. “Because the effects of solar radiation are cumulative, the longer eyes are exposed to harmful rays, the greater risk one has for developing vision-debilitating conditions, such as cataracts and macular degeneration later in life” warns Dr Hillier.
For your little one’s best defense, choose quality sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B radiation. Toy sunglasses that have no UV protection built in may make exposure worse; they dilate baby’s pupils and make her eyes absorb more light.
The California Optometric Association recommends seeing your optometrist to discuss the best options for your child. It’s a good idea for baby to have his or her first optometric exam at age 6 months and then again at 3 and 5 years to make sure vision develops properly and common conditions can be caught early.
The California Optometric Association, founded in 1899, is California’s oldest recognized community for optometrists. It represents over 2700 optometrists in the state. COA is dedicated to assuring the highest quality of health care for the public through the advancement of optometry. For more information, log onto www.coavision.org