Too Much or Too Little? Parents, Watch Your Kids' Eyes in the Sun

A new study has found that as little as 20 minutes in the sun can harm your children's eyes, according to

What can it do?  Age the lens or damage the retina, the Web site quotes James McDonnell, MD, medical director of pediatric ophthalmology at Loyola University Health System and professor of ophthalmology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Either can lead to blindness down the road.

McDonnell says if a child is going to be in the sun-- playing softball, swimming, even just hanging out with friends -- he should wear sunglasses.  Now I have a 12-year-old and I know how hard it is to get kids that age to do just about anything. Even before he got contacts, and wore glasses, anyway, my son refused to wear sunglasses.

I've known for some time that over-exposure to the sun can lead to cataracts in older people But I didn't know it could also affect kids' eyes.

And here's the next difficult part.  Not all sunglasses are created equal.

McDonnell suggests:

When choosing sunglasses for kids they should:
• Have a wrap-around frame to protect from peripheral light
• Be transparent enough to see a child’s eyes through the lens
• Not be made of dangerous chemicals such as bisphehol or phthalates
• Fit properly and comfortably
• Have lenses that protect from UVA and UVB rays

Also, children with fair skin and lighter-colored eyes are even more sensitive to the sun.  But "no matter their eye color, all children who have prolonged sun exposure should wear good sunglasses,” McDonnell told

Hats with a brim are good, too, though, if sunglasses are tough, fuhgeddabout it

Now, ready for the last problem with the sun?  Too little sunlight can also affect eyes. “Our eyes need sunlight. We shouldn’t avoid being in the sun. Sunlight exposure does a lot of good things for our bodies like driving melatonin production and is important for the sleep cycle. You just don’t want too much of a good thing,” quotes McDonnell.


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