Most parents are careful about using sunscreen to protect their children’s skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Because these rays can also cause damage to the eyes (such as an increased risk of cataracts and macular degeneration later in life), it is also important to protect them. Kids tend to spend more time outdoors than adults, which increases their exposure to UV radiation. Their eyes are also more susceptible to the harmful effects of this radiation because the lens inside a child’s eye is clear and, therefore, less able to filter the rays. Exposure to harmful UV rays is also increased when at high altitudes, in tropical places, and in highly reflective locations like on the water or a sandy beach. Proper sunglasses are especially important in these situations.

When choosing sunglasses for your child, look for a pair that blocks 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. The level of protection is not related to the color of the lens. If the glasses are certified to block 100% of the sun’s UV rays, then the lens color is purely a matter of preference. The more skin around the eyes that is covered by the glasses, the better. Consider relatively large, wraparound styles. Because kids who are outside tend to be active, you want their sunglasses to be as play-proof as possible. Look for impact resistant, scratch proof lenses that do not pop out easily. Plastic lenses are much safer than glass. Frames should be bendable, but not breakable and fit snugly. And, because sunglasses are only effective eye protection if your child actually wears them, let them choose the style that they prefer- as long as it meets your safety criteria.

Sunglasses only protect against UV rays that enter through the glasses’ lenses. It is also a good idea to double-up on protection by adding a wide-brimmed hat to limit the rays entering from the sides or the top.

Make sure that you take the time to add eye protection to your sun safety routine. Doing so will help to ensure a lifetime of healthy eyes for your child!