Cool Kid with Sunglasses horizontalYour child wears a bike helmet. They buckle up when in the car and wear a life jacket in a boat but what you don’t know about UV rays and sunglasses could cause a lifetime of eye damage.  Didn’t know this? Neither did I — until I was offered the opportunity to learn about how UV affects kids’ eyes on a conference call. Having just moved to Texas I figured it’d be a great education on sunglasses.

Boy were my eyes opened.

Did you know that over half of all parents don’t have their kids wear sunglasses? I was in that half. Sure, I have a couple of pictures of my kids in sunglasses but it was more of a fashion accessory than a preventative measure.

Sure she's wearing sunglasses. Inside, in the winter. I’ll be taking it more seriously now. Did you know that UV exposure can cause all kinds of eye diseases and disorders? I saw the pictures so let me just summarize- Not pleasant.

But the kicker? Children will accumulate nearly 80% of lifetime UV exposure by the age of 18. Which means I have some catching up to do with my nine year old!

What can you do as you travel and go about daily life with your kids to protect their eyes?

Bring sunglasses whether your vacation is in sand or snow. Water reflects 100% of UV rays, snow 85%. Reflected UV rays are just as damaging. So skiing or surfing pack the shades.

Be sure the glasses fit. UV can sneak in on the sides, top and bottom if the fit is too loose.

Buy for function not fashion. Be sure that your little ones sunglasses come with a sticker that says it protects against UVA & UVB rays. Be sure to buy from a reputable source. Buying knockoff glasses can actually cause more damage than not wearing glasses at all! (Tinting causes the pupil to dilate, letting in more UV rays.Without proper UV protection eyes get more exposure.)

Like other safety gear, sunglasses can lose potency over their lifetime. Be sure to use a protective case to prevent scratches (which can diminish UV protection). Also, stop into your local eye doctor to check the level of protection your sunglasses offer. They have a machine that can tell you UV blocking ability of glasses.

We headed out and picked up some sunglasses for my daughter’s the same day as this call. (I was compensated for my time on the call but the knowledge I acquired from it was priceless.) Do your kids wear sunglasses? Want to learn more? View the Vision Council’s UV Report.