Home runs, goals, slip-n-slides—oh my! After months of anticipation, summer sports and activities have finally arrived. While outdoor fun is a summer essential, these activities can also offer dangers to children’s eyes. August has been named Children’s Eye Health & Safety Month to raise awareness of the eye health issues and injuries susceptible to children.
What dangers should we be aware of at summer sports activities?
For a child, hitting a home run is exhilarating. Getting dirt in their eyes while sliding through home base is not. The National Eye Institute claims that baseball is responsible for the largest number of eye injuries among children 14 and under.1
These injuries often occur when dust is kicked up from the field and could lead to watery eyes, redness and irritation, and long-term pain if not handled correctly.2 No matter what sport your child plays, these symptoms can make it difficult to continue the game and are easily preventable with protective eyewear.
Summer is in full swing and, in addition to your favorite summer sports, that means trips to the beach, barbecues, and a lot of time outdoors. While so much fun happens in the summer sun, it is important to remember the effects of harmful UV rays and what you can do to protect your eyes from the sun this summer and year round. Spending hours in the sun without protection is just as bad for your eyes as it is for your skin.
Related Content: Common Summer Health Risks and How to Avoid Them
What are the different types of light that can create solar damage on your eyes?
There are two types of light to keep in mind when protecting your eyes from the sun—Ultraviolet (UV) and High Energy Visible (HEV) light. Both can cause long-term damage to your eyes and the sensitive tissues surrounding them.
Why is it important to protect your eyes from UV Light?
Leaving the eyes unprotected from UV rays can lead to a variety of eye diseases and injuries, including “photokeratitis”. This condition occurs from prolonged sun exposure and is like sunburn on the front surface of your eye.
UV light increases the risks of developing cataracts, growths, and cancer. UV light is a causative agent in the development of skin cancer, and approximately 5-10% of all skin cancers occur on the eyelids and the delicate tissues surrounding the eyes. Diseases such as cataracts and eye cancers can take years to develop, but every moment of sun exposure without proper protection could be adding solar damage that increases the risks for serious eye health issues.3
Why is it important to protect your eyes from HEV Light?
HEV light, most commonly known as “blue light”, is a highly damaging light from the sun that is a major contributor to the development of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is the breakdown of the macula or the central point of focus on the retina. Symptoms include loss of color vision, a dark area in the center of the visual field, or blurred vision. Macular degeneration is also the leading cause of vision loss among people age 60 or older.
How can you protect your family’s eyes?
While eye injuries are not always avoidable, there are preventative measures that can decrease the chance they will occur. The same advice for protecting your skin from the sun rings true for your eyes. Limit sun exposure and be sure to wear protective layers, like broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses, to deflect light from your eyes.
Opt for protective lenses
Wearing glasses can protect your eyes from debris and drastically decrease the likelihood of eye irritation during fun summer activities. Reports show that approximately 90% of eye injuries could be avoided with protective eyewear.4 Opting for impact resistant lenses for you or your child’s glasses could make all of the difference.
Avoid the sun with polarized lenses
Cheering on your little athlete or enjoying the summer sun is much easier without having to shield your eyes from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Most people assume that simply wearing a pair of sunglasses mitigates the problem; however, that is not always the case. Regular sunglasses do not provide suitable protection from the sun’s damaging rays. Polarized lenses work like sunscreen for your eyes as they contain a special filter that blocks intense reflected light, reducing glare—especially on the water.5 Choosing sunglasses with polarized lenses will protect you from the sun’s rays and could decrease the likelihood of skin cancer. When layering on the SPF before the big game, be sure to grab you and your child’s polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun.
Coppertone is a known leader in sunscreen for our skin and now for eyes as well. These lenses offer the most advanced protection from UV/HEV rays and allow for the sharpest vision outdoors. Additionally, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends Coppertone lenses as an effective UV filter for the eyes and the surrounding skin.
Prevention as the best protection
Having your child’s eyes and vision examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist early in their visual development is the best way to assess possible health issues before they become more serious. This is why parents shouldn’t wait until their children report a vision problem to see a vision specialist. Visual skills continue to develop throughout childhood but are more easily treated the earlier they are detected. With some visual skills reaching full development at about 5 years of age, correction after this point can become more difficult. Therefore, it is vital for parents to schedule regular eye examinations as recommended by their pediatrician, their eye care professional, and the American Optometric Association.