Proetcting Kids' Eyes from Sun Damage Sunglasses are one of those things that always seemed like a good idea, but I could never get my kids on board, even when we were headed off on a beach vacation. I would buy them sunglasses, they would (maybe) wear them for a few hours then lose them at the playground, on the beach or in the car. So I gave up.

Turns out I (and they) could live to regret that.

The Vision Council, a nonprofit industry association, says that the same damaging rays that can leave your skin burned can also burn your eyes. Long term UV exposure can lead to ugly growths on the eyelid, macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in people age 60 and older) and cancer of the eye, eyelid and surrounding tissue.

Most Damage Done by Time Kids Are 18

Unfortunately for those of us who are, ahem, a little older than 18, optician Joy Gibb of Salt Lake City says we have already done significant damage to our eyes. That’s because my kids are not the only ones who don’t like to wear sunglasses when they swim, ski, hike and play outside, whether at home or traveling.

How do you get kids to wear sunglasses? Gibb suggests:

  • Make sure the sunglasses fit correctly so they are comfortable and don’t pinch or hurt the bridge of little noses.
  • Lead by example—always wear your sunglasses when you’re outdoors.
  • Take the kids with you and let them choose the glasses they like. “They’ll be more likely to wear them and take care of them,” she says.
  • Always carry your kids’ sunglasses with you and “pass them out like you pass out the fruit snacks.”

Finally, Gibb says, make sure the glasses have adequate UV protection. Just because there’s a sticker that says the glasses offer UV protection doesn’t mean it’s true. She recommends taking sunglasses to an eye doctor so he or she can test the UV protection to ensure the glasses will effectively filter out the harmful rays.