UV Safety Awareness Month: Children And The Risks Of UV Exposure

UV Safety Awareness Month: Children And The Risks Of UV Exposure

Ultraviolet (UV) rays are electromagnetic radiation emitted from the sun. The UV rays that reach earth have been shown to negatively impact human health. While UV rays have long been understood to contribute to sunburns and skin cancer, UV rays also cause damage to the eyes. The effect of UV exposure is cumulative and any exposure to UV rays can increase the risk for later development of eye health conditions. UV Safety Awareness Month is recognized each July so that people can understand the damaging effects of UV rays and can help keep themselves and their children safe and reduce the risk of future vision health issues. Here are some of the ways UV rays can affect children and how you can help keep your children safe.

How And Why To Protect Against UV Damage

Short Term Eye Issues
When your child goes outside without the protection of UV-blocking glasses, they may develop photokeratitis, also known as sunburn of the eyes. This type of sunburn can cause pain and irritation for anywhere between several hours and several days. Sunburn of the eyes can cause:

  • Pain or redness in the eyes.
  • Tearing/watery eyes.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Swelling.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Twitching of the eyelids.
  • Gritty sensation in the eyes.
  • Temporary loss of vision.
  • The appearance of halos.
  • Headaches.

It is also possible to burn the eyelids and the areas surrounding the eye, which can make blinking painful and create a warm sensation on the eyes. To help combat sunburned eyes, you can prepare a cold compress for your child’s eyelids, try to keep the eyelids moisturized, and remind your child to not rub at their eyes, as this will only increase pain.

Long Term Eye Health Problems
Exposure to UV rays does more than cause a temporary sunburn. When the eyes are exposed to UV rays, especially frequently, they are at an increased risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration later in life. The sun exposure a person receives as a child has been shown to make them more susceptible to breakdowns in the crystalline lens in the future. Even small amounts of regular UV exposure can contribute to the increased risk of developing an eye condition later in life.

How To Protect Children Against UV Rays
No one wants to keep their children inside all of the time, nor should you. Your child can still get plenty of fresh air and keep their eyes safe from UV rays by following these precautions:

  • Always wear UV-blocking sunglasses when outside, even on days that are overcast or in the middle of winter. The World Health Organization suspects that 80% of damaging UV exposure occurs before age 18. Getting your children to wear UV-blocking sunglasses from a young age will greatly reduce their risk of UV exposure while simultaneously normalizing this practice and developing healthy eye habits going forward.
  • Keep UV rays off of the face. While UV-blocking sunglasses are great, you can also keep sunlight and UV rays away from the eyes by covering up. Ball caps help keep the sun out of your child’s eyes, and wide-brimmed hats will also keep the sun off of their neck and ears.
  • Teach your child to not look at the sun. Many of us heard this as children ourselves and the advice holds true. Looking directly at the sun exposes the eyes to direct UV rays and can cause immediate damage to vision.
  • Avoid midday sun. UV rays are strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm. Try to get your kids outside for some fresh air in the morning instead of the afternoon to help avoid the most intense UV rays of the day.
  • Avoid sun exposure to children 6 months and younger. If you’re taking your child out, ensure they are covered with a canopy, umbrella, or sun shield while outside.

Children’s Eye Exams In Calgary

Because the effects of UV rays can take many years to present, UV prevention needs to be a habit that is developed early and that remains ongoing. It is vital to remember that the impact of UV eye exposure in childhood can greatly increase future eye conditions and that children’s eye health needs to be properly addressed and protected to save them from eye complications when they get older. To keep your child’s eyes healthy now and going forward, schedule a children’s eye exam with a Calgary eye doctor. Eye exams not only keep your child’s prescription up-to-date, but they also check your child’s eye health and allow you to discuss eye care and damage prevention with the pediatric optometrist. To schedule a children’s eye exam in Calgary, contact Specs in the City at 1-403-252-2020 or fill out the online contact form.


Q: When should my child receive their first eye exam?
A: Children should receive their first comprehensive eye exam at the age of 6 months old and then once before they enter school at the age of 3 or 4. Children ages 5 to 18 should receive regular children’s eye exams annually. Age 19 and onward, eye exams are recommended once every two years if vision corrections are not required.

Q: Do children's eye exams hurt?
A: The exams are non-invasive and will not cause any pain or discomfort to your child.

Q: Does it matter if I get UV-blocking sunglasses?
A: Yes. Sunglasses that do not specify they are UV-blocking may make it easier to see when it’s sunny out, but they won’t offer any protection from UV damage. Sunglasses that actually protect your eyes should have a sticker or other indicator that they have UV protection built in.

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