Sunglasses and Kids -- Do They Protect or Not?

by Paco Dueñas Lira

Babies and SunglassesYou lather sunscreen on your toddler, pop on a hat and head out for an hour of fun.

Did you remember the sunglasses? The sun can cause sunburned corneas, cancer of the eyelid, cataracts, and macular degeneration, among other problems.

If your family loves to be out in the sun, at the beach or on the ski slope, sunglasses become an essential part of your day.

Kids' eyes are more susceptible to sun damage because their eye lenses don't block as much UV rays as adult lenses. Since sun damage can accumulate over time, experts suggest that sunglasses and kids get well acquainted early in life.

Sunglasses and Kids -- What's Good? What's Bad?

Eyes Respond to Light

When additional light hits the eyes, the iris closes. After the iris has closed as much as possible then the next step is squinting. If there is still extra light, such as from the brightness of snow, then this will cause damage to the retina.

The Sunglasses Shield

Sunglasses can shield your child's eyes from strong light. They block most of the harmful radiation that cause long-term damage; however, steer clear of the merely cute models.

Buying inexpensive sunglasses can mean that you lose all these benefits and possibly make the situation worse. Your child's exposure to UV rays increases if your sunglasses do not provide UV protection. Cheap sunglasses will stop some light and this will cause the iris to open even more and will let in more light. This will let in more UV light also and cause more retina damage.

Choosing Your Child's Sunglasses

Did you ever notice how cute kids look in sunglasses? Babies resemble those adorable superhero teddy bears with fashion statement sunglasses.

Looks aren't everything. These do and don't rules can help you choose the best sunglasses for your child

DO List:
• Find glasses that block 99 to 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.
• The more skin covered, the better. Look for large, wraparound styles.
• Get sunglasses with an elasticized band around the back can for an active or forgetful child.
• Consider soft foam frames with elastic bands for baby or toddler wear.
• If your baby won't leave them on, the next best thing is a wide brimmed hat. Use a sun shade on the stroller and car window.

DON'T List:
• Skip the novelty sunglasses with colored lenses unless they're certified to provide adequate protection.
• Inexpensive glasses can offer adequate protection and be free of distortion. Don't assume you'll have to spend a fortune.

Sunglass Styles for Kids

You'll find plenty of colorful kid-friendly frame styles, but sunglass companies have embraced a new niche. Kids love looking like their parents or an older sibling. They gravitate towards the metal and plastic frames that look like scaled-down versions of trendy adult styles.

Specialty stores and optical chain stores offer the best selection of quality kids' sunglasses. Wherever you go, look for a good selection of frames, scaled down specifically for a child's face and a staff experienced in fitting children's eyewear.

Trending Kids' Sunglasses

1. Styling that mimics adult sunglasses
2. Plastic styles in vibrant colors
3. Sports eyewear in scaled down versions
4. Clip-on sunglasses for prescription glasses (also available with magnetic attachment)
5. Brand name appeal; think popular cartoon and young celebrities

Sunglasses Facts

The first sunglasses: Early sunglasses served a special purpose. They weren't used to block out the sun's rays. Chinese judges wore smoke-colored quartz lenses to conceal their eye expressions in court to keep their opinion of evidence as credible or hogwash a secret until the trial's conclusion.

Good guys vs. bad guys: Most of the characters in the movie "The Matrix" wore sunglasses. The protagonists donned round lenses while the antagonists all wore rectangular lenses.

Weight loss glasses? Some suggest sunglasses for those dieters lacking will-power. Supposedly, sunglasses tinted blue, the "least appetizing color of the spectrum," makes that ice cream sundae sitting in front of you look downright disgusting.

Colored lenses: It's said that the Roman emperor Nero like to watch gladiator fights through polished gems to recreate the color and distort the image.

Do you make sunglasses a part of that "slip, slop and cap" routine?