Did you know children are more at risk of eye damage from the sun than adults?

Those of us of a certain vintage would remember Sid the Seagull singing the Slip, Slop, Slap message to us on our TV screens. Launched in 1981 by the Cancer Council, this was one of the most successful health campaigns that Australia had ever seen. Sid educated us all to “slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat” to help protect ourselves from skin cancer.

26 years later in 2007, the Cancer Council message was updated to add two more “S’s” to the mix – Seek shade and Slide on sunglasses, highlighting the importance of protecting our eyes from the sun’s damaging UV rays. And this is particularly important when it comes to protecting children’s eyes from the sun.

A child’s eye lens is not as mature and cannot filter the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays as easily as an adult’s. This puts them at an increased risk of greater damage to the retina when exposed to sunlight.

Children spend more time outdoors with studies showing that more than half of our lifetime exposure to sunlight occurs before the age of 18.

A 2006 study conducted by the University of New South Wales found that Australian children as young as 8 are showing signs of serious eye damage from the sun. 26% of 9-10 year olds showed damaging changes, while a huge 81% of 12 – 15 year olds showed damaging changes.

Short term effects of UV radiation on eyes include:

• Discomfort, blinking and swelling, snow blindness.

Long term effects of UV radiation on eyes include:

• Cataracts (cloudiness of the lens)

• Macular degeneration (damage to the retina)

• Solar keratopathy (cloudiness of the cornea)

• Cancer of the conjunctiva or the membrane covering the white part of the eye

• Pterygium, a growth of tissue on the white of the eye that may extend onto the cornea where it may distort or block vision

• Skin cancer of the eyelids and facial skin

Being outdoors has many health benefits for growing bodies and children’s eyes actually need exposure to daylight to prevent or slow the development of myopia (near sightedness). The good news is that good quality sunglasses will still let light through, but will protect children from harmful UVA and UVB rays. It is important to choose sunglasses that comply with the Australian and New Zealand Standards.

So no need to keep the kids inside, just protect their eyes as you would their skin when they are outdoors playing sport or just having fun in the sun!

By Patricia Feehan, Founder, Pyewear

Pyewear Sunglasses are specifically made for active kids for sport, active play, or chilling by the pool! The lenses are all polarised, lightweight and made from shatter-resistant polycarbonate.