Summer Safety Tips: Protect Children's Eyes In Sun, Sports Activities
New research shows that children's eyes can be damaged from sun exposure, just like their skin. This damage may put them at increased risk of developing debilitating diseases such as cataracts or macular degeneration as adults.
According to Dr. Mark Borchert, a pediatric ophthalmologist and the director of The Vision Center, the lens of a child allows 70% more UV rays to reach the delicate retina than in an adult. Most parents are aware of the critical need to protect their children's skin from UV exposure, yet few insist their children wear sunglasses.
"If it is bright enough outdoors for you to be wearing sunglasses, your child should also be wearing them," he said.
Wearing protective goggles during sports activity is also recommended. The National Eye Institute reports there are more than 100,000 sports-related eye injuries every year with 42,000 requiring emergency care.
The experts at The Vision Center have the following safety suggestions for children.
1. Make sure your kids wear sunglasses -- especially younger children. Almost half the entire time we spend outdoors in our lives occurs before 12-years of age. Sunglasses for children may be purchased inexpensively at many retail and online outlets but make sure the sunglasses you purchase are rated to block both UVA and UVB radiation. All sunglasses block UVB, but some do not block UVA rays. Look for glasses with a polycarbonate lens; children under six may need a pair with Velcro straps to keep them in place.
2. Wear protective eye gear for ball sports. Every year, some 18,000 sports-related eye injuries are seen in US hospital emergency rooms in this country. While helmets are required for many organized sports like baseball, goggles or face guards usually are not. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that children wear polycarbonate goggles for baseball, basketball and racket sports, including tennis.
3. If sand gets in your child's eyes, don't let him rub it. If a child gets sand blown or thrown into his eyes, an adult should immediately take him to a sink with running water. Do not allow him to rub his eyes; this can cause damage to the cornea (outer layer of the eye). Pour water over the eyes to remove sand particles. Encourage blinking and do not discourage crying, since tears remove eye irritants. If these steps don't work, seek medical attention.
4. Check the chlorine level in your pool. If a swimming pool has too little chlorine, it can allow bacteria to grow, which can lead to eye infections. On the flip side, if a pool has too much chlorine, it can react with the water in the eye causing a mild acid-burn which is the source of the stinging and redness. Another option is to have children wear a pair of goggles that will keep pool water from entering the eye.
The Vision Center at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles has the largest pediatric ophthalmology program in the nation and is an international referral center for children with eye disease.
Source: The Vision Center at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles
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