The Vision Council ~ Eye Safety and Protecting Your Children's Eyes

Posted by Jenna | Wednesday, July 25, 2012



Summer is one of my favorite times of year! I love being able to spend time outdoors with the kids, enjoying the few short months of warmth we experience here in the Midwest. Of course, with more time outside also means more exposure to the sun. I do my best to regularly apply sunblock on all of us to protect our skin, but did not realize until recently I should be doing more to protect our eyes from the harmful UV rays as well!


Last week I had the opportunity to sit in on a briefing with  TheMotherhood and The Vision council where I learned all about the importance of wearing sunglasses outdoors, especially for kids!

For those who are not familiar, The Vision Council is a nonprofit trade association representing the manufacturers and suppliers of the optical industry. Their member companies manufacture and/or distribute everything from eyeglass lenses and frames to sunglasses to eyeglass cases and accessories. An important part of their work is educating adults and children about vision health and eye safety.

I was excited when asked to be apart of this briefing session, as the topic was one that I wanted to learn more about and share with all of you!  I knew it was important to wear sunglasses, but didn't realize just how important! Research shows that more than 40 percent of parents don’t proactively ensure their children wear UV protective sunglasses - the most effective tool for blocking damaging UVA and UVB rays. Up until now, I will admit, I have been one of those parents. I make sure to apply the sunblock, but have not been great about pushing the sunglasses like I should. After being a part of this informative briefing session however, that has all changed! It was also interesting to see this image with details on the top 25 cities for high UV exposure as well!
Children's young eyes are especially susceptible to UV-related harm (especially those under 10 years of age). I've learned that unlike the mature lens of an adult eye, a child's lens cannot filter out UV rays and so more radiation reaches the retina. Wow! And did you know eyes could actually sunburn? I didn't! The sun's rays can be so dangerous for us all, but especially children! I've learned just how important eye safety is and that's why I wanted to share some of the steps we learned to help shield kids' eyes (and adults!) from harmful sun exposure.

Experts, Jamie Shyer (chairman of The Vision Council board of directors) and Dr. Dora Adamopoulos, OD (member of Better Vision Institute, the Medical Advisory Board to The Vision Council) were there to discuss with us the importance of UV protection for children's eyes and the most appropriate eyewear for outdoor activities. Here are a few key points that I found most helpful and interesting:
  •  UVA and UVB rays are constantly penetrating the Earth’s surface, leaving unprotected eyes exposed to harmful radiation. Although it’s commonly misperceived that UV rays are only out during sunny days, they are actually present throughout the day – no matter the season or weather.
  • Even a small amount of unprotected exposure is dangerous. UV exposure adds up over time and can lead to serious health problems as you and your children age. That’s why it’s increasingly important to have sunglasses handy at all times.
  • To determine if your sunglasses are reliable, look for a little sticker or tag on the lens that shows compliance with criteria set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The label "UV 380" covers all UVA and UVB rays.
  • In a recent survey of 10,000 U.S. adults, 73 percent of parents wear sunglasses to protect their eyes from ultraviolet radiation, while only 58 percent have their children wear sunglasses. That means that nearly half of parents aren’t protecting their children’s eyes from harmful UV radiation.
Of course, it was that last point that really hit home! Knowing the facts, I want to help protect my kids' eyes. And to start, that means buying them a pair of UV-protective sunglasses from a reputable retailer. Some things I learned about choosing the right sunglasses include taking into consideration the following: 1) Comfort (so you'll actually wear them), 2) Reliability (buy from a reputable retailer - not street vendors or popular auction sites), 3) Active Lifestyle (consider your daily activities in your choice of sunglasses), 4) Design and fit that works best for you/your children.

Now if you're like me, you may be wondering how to actually get your kids to wear the sunglasses on a consistent basis. After all, it's easy to find them a pair they'll love, it's not always easy to get them to wear them on a regular basis. That's when creativity comes into play. If your kids like stickers, maybe try letting them put two to three on the glasses (limiting to the frame, not the lens). Or, buy an inexpensive pair of sunglasses and put them on their favorite stuffed animals. I know my kids would be more apt to wear them if their favorite friend was outfitted in them too! Of course, the best way to encourage wearing sunglasses and protecting their eyes is to lead by example. It's important for parents to wear sunglasses every time they have the opportunity. Not only is it a good habit to get into, but it will reinforce the behavior in your children as well.
Jamie Shyer and Dr. Adamopoulos were also kind enough to answer our questions as well. Here are a few of the many I found helpful:


      How can I tell if I have a quality pair of sunglasses? Should I be looking for a certain type of government standard?

To determine the UV protection provided by your current sunglass lenses, take them to your local optometrist or ophthalmologist’s office. Many optical practices have a UV meter that can determine the UV protection of a lens.

When purchasing sunglasses, you should look for an American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, sticker or logo on the lens,tag or box. The ANSI Z80.3-2001 standard, usually labeled as “UV 380,” covers all UVA and UVB ray protective requirements. 



      Do hats help decrease UV exposure to eyes?

Hats, especially wide brimmed ones, can help block UV radiation, but they should never be used in place of sunglasses. The sun is constantly moving so the direction of UV rays at noon is very different from the direction at 3 or 4 p.m. Baseball caps that only have front bills don’t offer eyes nearly enough protection as the sun starts to set. UV protective eyewear is the best way to make sure that eyes are shielded from UVA and UVB rays.  



      Should sunglasses be worn even on cloudy days?

Sunglasses should always be worn outside – no matter your location, season, or time of day. Overcast skies still allow 31 percent of solar radiation to reach the Earth’s surface. 


As you can tell, this session was very informative and helpful. It opened my eyes to the importance of protecting my family's eyes from the dangerous rays from the sun and how to do that effectively.

The Vision Council’s website www.missingsunglasses.com is also full of useful information about sunglasses, lenses, tints and frames. And, you can connect with them on Twitter and Facebook as well.

*I wrote this post as part of a paid opportunity with The Vision Council through TheMotherhood. All  opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.



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