Keeping Kids Healthy
By Drs. Sally Robinson and Keith Bly 

With May designated as UV awareness month, experts are calling on parents to pay special heed to the safety of their children’s eyes this summer.

Although eye protection is a concern for people of all ages, Prevent Blindness America, the nation’s oldest eye health and safety organization, warns that children are particularly vulnerable to the harmful ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) damage that can accompany sun exposure.

The American Optometric Association has found that the lenses of young eyes are more transparent than that of adults risking retinal exposure to a greater degree of short wavelength light.

UV exposure can occur with reflections off water, sand and pavement and can be dangerous. UV exposure has been linked to the onset of cataracts, macular degeneration and a wide array of eye health issues.

If your eyes are exposed to excessive amounts of UV radiation over a short period of time, you might experience a sunburn of the eye — or photokeratitis. This could cause pain, red eyes, sensitivity to light and excessive tearing.

Prevent Blindness America advises that everyone who goes out in the sun should wear sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation.

Sunglasses that provide less can actually cause more problems, as they can cause the pupils to dilate and allow more radiation to enter.

The sunglasses should screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light, be matched in color and free of distortion. Lenses that are gray allow proper color recognition.

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat or cap also offers some measure of protection.

It is important that parents make sure sunglasses fit their child’s face properly and shield the eye from the sun’s rays in all directions.

The lenses that wrap around can provide additional protection for the retina and the skin around the eye. Lenses made of polycarbonate or Trivex materials are the most impact resistant.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital, and Keith Bly is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the UTMB Pediatric Urgent Care Clinics. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.