When should babies start wearing sunglasses? Can a 3 month old wear sunglasses?
While sometimes worn as a fashion accessory, sunglasses will also protect your child’s eyes from the sun’s powerful ultraviolet rays that can cause problems later in life.
Children that don’t wear sunglasses are at risk for skin and eye damage, as their eyelids and skin around their eyes are delicate and more vulnerable than adult skin. Damage from ultraviolet rays builds up over time, so the sooner you start protecting your children’s eyes from the sun, the lower their risk of developing future eye problems. Those problems could include cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which can blur vision and dull colors.
There are some short-term physical side effects as well. We frequently see children with red eyes and growths called pterygium, a non-cancerous lesion that forms in the eye from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. Children can also develop photokeratitis or “snow blindness.” This happens when the ultraviolet rays reflect off the sand and cause a temporary loss of vision. Consider having your child wear sunglasses on overcast days as UV rays can still do damage. Fortunately, good sunglasses will protect both the skin around the eye and the eye itself.
When should my child start wearing sunglasses?
Infants under 6 months old should not be exposed to the sun, but that would be next to impossible since we live in sunny Southern California! Be sure to put a hat on your infant, pull the shade over the stroller seat and sit in the shade at every opportunity. When your child reaches 6 months of age, they should wear sunglasses or buy baby sunglasses. Older children should wear sunglasses when they are outside in any environment. If your child needs prescription glasses, they should also wear prescription sunglasses.
What should I look for when purchasing sunglasses for my child?
Keep these tips in mind when buying sunglasses for your children:
- Purchase sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA (long length) and UVB (short length) rays.
Only buy sunglasses that indicate the percentage of UVR protection they provide. Look for large wraparound-style sunglasses that cover a lot of skin.
- Use playground-proof lenses.
Kids are always on the go and their sunglasses should match an active lifestyle. Find polycarbonate, impact-resistant, scratch-proof lenses that won’t pop out of the frames. Speaking of frames, they should be bendable but unbreakable. Sunglasses should fit snugly and close to your child’s face. Plastic lenses are best, unless your doctor recommends glass lenses.
- Let them choose.
Your kids are more likely to actually wear sunglasses if they’re allowed to pick them out. Give your child a choice between a few pairs of sunglasses that meet these specifications.
- Be the “keeper of the sunglasses.”
Keep your child’s sunglasses in a safe place when they’re not being worn to prevent them from being lost, broken or forgotten.
- Set a good example.
As the parent, wear your sunglasses consistently and make wearing them part of your child’s routine.
- Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat!
Sunglasses block ultraviolet rays that come directly through the lenses. The skin around the eyes, the forehead and cheeks are exposed to ultraviolet rays that reflect off surrounding surfaces. Be sure your child is wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen that block the sun from above and from the sides.
If you have more questions about protecting your child’s eyes, please contact your CPCMG pediatrician.
By A. Mendanhall