DO you remember the glorious sunny summer days of your youth?
You ran outside and played happily. It was so simple.
Then we learned that one of the reasons for skin cancers was the effect of that very sun on our unprotected skin, so now when kids go out to play they are first slathered with sunscreen.
The earlier we start to protect our children's skin the healthier they will be because sun damage is cumulative.
In a conversation with Angela Lee, an optometrist with Iris eye-care centre, I learned that because the UV rays are now stronger than ever before (due to global warming), we are seeing, Lee told me, more eye problems and at a younger age. These include cataracts, macular degeneration and eye cancer.
So it is important to protect our children's skin but also their eyes.
By the age of 18, a child has absorbed 80 per cent of the maximum amount of UV radiation a person can safely absorb. On average, a child's exposure to sunlight is three times as much as that of an adult. Sunglasses will change the amount of UV absorption and protect our children's sensitive eyes.
There are some considerations when choosing sunglasses for children. It is important that they offer 100-per-cent UV protection, so check and ensure that this is the case. Sunglasses without this protection can actually harm eyes. The tint will block out the sun causing the pupils to dilate and do more damage. So it's not just a case of looking to see how dark the tint is.
Interestingly, if your child already wears prescription glasses odds are that they have UV protection, but you need to ask. And the glasses that adjust to the light going from darker to lighter depending on the light source are also often UV protected. Sunglasses should be large enough to cover the eyes with no gaps. A good wrap around is the best choice. The UV rays can reflect off sand, water or even the sidewalk.
All of this information was new to me and when I mentioned that to Lee she explained that more public awareness is necessary to prevent eye problems in adults.
UV protection needs to include infants. Babies are very sensitive to the sun. There are sunglasses available for these little ones.
If we want our children to wear their sunglasses they need to be fitted properly so that they are comfortable. There are also glasses in various colours and ones that feature super heroes or favourite TV personalities. Kids can choose their preferences and are most likely to wear them if they have had a style choice. You can take your child and her glasses into any optician store for a proper fitting.
And if you have a child who is very active or involved in sports there are straps that fit around the head to keep the glasses on no matter how active the child. The best way to ensure that your child will wear her sunglasses is to be a good role model. You wear yours as well, so when you go out in the sun you are both protected.
The younger you start the easier it is. Children who have worn sunglasses since they were babies see it as a normal process. And remember the sun is not limited to the summer. Whenever the sun is out kids should be protected.
Lee suggests that you place the sunglasses by the door with a sunhat and sunscreen, and then you will remember to have your child well protected while he or she plays in the sun.
She reminds us that you need to protect your child's eyes all year round. Damage today can lead to eye problems tomorrow.
Kathy Lynn is a professional speaker and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. Her website is at: www.parentingtoday. ca.