Protecting Keiki Eyes From The Sun

Yu Shing Ting
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Friday - June 03, 2009
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Wearing shades at an early age can prevent cataracts later. Here Koen Makinano wears Eyes Cream Shades

I am often asked, “How do you get your baby to keep his hat or sunglasses on?”

The answer is simple. I’m just one of those crazy moms who has loved to play dress up with my baby from the minute he was born. So now, 20 months later, he’s just used to it.

And while I think it’s ridiculously cute, it’s actually good for him.

According to a recent study by the John A. Burns School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, observations of more than 5,000 Island residents showed only 12 percent of children (approximately 12 years and younger) in Hawaii wear sunglasses to protect their eyes, which may leave them at increased risk for cataracts later in life.

“Approximately 20.5 million Americans over the age of 40 have a cataract in at least one eye, and that’s expected to rise to more than 30 million by 2020,” says Jay Maddock, department chair and lead author of the findings published in February 2009’s Optometry and Vision Science. “It’s hard to know why, but the trend has been trending upward.


“Based on our findings, we advise everyone in Hawaii when they’re outside during the daytime to wear sunglasses, because wearing sunglasses, especially early in life, has been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts.”

Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens, which grow very slowly and eventually can become dense enough to compromise vision. It’s the most common cause of blindness, although it is treatable with surgery.

Maddock suggests that parents put sunglasses on their children as soon as their first time in the sun. Also, when purchasing sunglasses, look for a pair that blocks UVA/UVB rays.

“You can get novelty ones that don’t work,” cautions Maddock. “Also, the color of the lens is not related to the amount of UV that it blocks. For example, the real dark sunglasses can still be junk, or you can get pink-colored ones that block 100 percent.”

For little children who refuse to wear the glasses, try a pair with a strap. If that still doesn’t work, then at the very least have your child wear a hat.

“If your kids won’t wear sunglasses, which happens a lot, definitely try to get a hat on them because the brim of the hat can block a good portion of the UV rays,” explains Maddock. “Also, in Hawaii the sun is so strong all year-round that sun-protective behaviors should be carried out year-round.

“Wearing sunglasses is one of those behavioral changes that is fairly simple to make, but people don’t think about it. A lot of times people think of sunglasses as being for fashion and not for health, and actually there is a direct health link.”

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