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Should Children As Young As Three Wear Sunglasses


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As part of a course unit on contributing to the Health and Wellbeing of children, I am putting together a sun protection policy.


While researching this, I came across the following article in the daily telegraph.




Although this article was dated 2007, this was the first I have heard of this (in spite of having copious amounts of information about keeping children safe in the sun, sun glasses appear very much in the small print).


This seems to be fairly important information and I wondered why it was not generally in the common domain. I emailed the Yorkshire Eye Hospital, who were behind this article, they were delighted to hear from me as they are still trying to get the message across. with their permission, I quote:


“I am one of the consultant eye specialists here at our Yorkshire Eye Hospital, and it was me involved in trying to get this message across. I was interviewed on Woman's hour on Radio 4 & then a local radio station.


There is pretty universal agreement that UV is harmful to all exposed tissues, but as you say, we know about slip, slap ,slop, but everyone forgets about eyes.


There is a fair bit of commentary around , eg if you Google Ultraviolet Eye Damage




But, as you say there is less actually saying that kids should wear sunglasses


Basically, I would recommend that sun glasses are part of the protection for anyone (so, clothes to cover up, a hat to shade, sun cream to exposed areas & sun glasses)


In terms of what to look for, CE marking shows that they are declared to be up to standard. They may also explain what level of UV protection they afford, most would recommend total (well, >99% UV)




I also contacted NHS direct, their response was:


Thank you for your enquiry. Please be aware that this is an information service only. We are unable to give medical advice or diagnoses. Advice can only be given by a suitably qualified health professional after a consultation and / or examination. However, we have provided some information regarding protecting children's eyes from the sun, and have included the sun protection school policy guidelines from Cancer Research, which we hope you find helpful.






Please scroll down page and see second paragraph under bullet points.






In particular, please click on ‘Sun protection and schools: how to make a difference [pdf 191kb]’, and please see ‘Protective clothing’ under section entitled ‘Practices that minimize exposure to UV radiation’




I am sure that the thought of having to keep track of 30 odd sunglasses, as well as hats and individual jars of sun cream fills us all with trepidation, but this as this seems to be a fairly important contribution to young children’s health, I am wondering what your views are on this?[/size]

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I have never put children in sunglasses since I read (I can't remember where) that you can cause more damage if they are not filtering out all of the harmful UV rays. If there is less light, their pupils open further allowing more of the harmful UV rays in.

These comments were levelled at proper sunglasses - not toy ones - at the time and I have never found enough reassuring information to make me change my mind. Perhaps I now need to go out and look for that information.

Thank you for that, saturnpa, you have spurred me into action.

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in the setting where i work the deputy head says children are not allowed to wear sunglasses as they may break and then damage the child's eyes...will bring this info up at next meeting! Will keep you posted on how it goes

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Only skimmed though one of the links, but I have always felt that it does depend on the lens, and the literature says this..I do not know if the cheap 'childrens sunglasses' which you see around would conform to this ( they never used to ) or just be classed as 'a toy' .


it also says that caps with peaks can shield you up to 50% of suns UV which can only be a bonus.. so at least ensure they all wear them and with the peak the correct way around...


Not sure if it is practical to ensure all children have them, but perhaps make parents aware of the need...



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All well and good but have you tried persuading a 3 year old to keep a pair of sunglasses on for more than a few minutes!


I know we need to protect children where we can but I'm not convinced this is practical. We spend a lot of time in Portugal where the sun is very strong. You never see children in sunglasses BUT no parent would let their child out in the sun between 11am and 2pm in the summer. They are all having a long lunch instead!


The limited exposure they would get at a pre-school would be nothing compared to the exposure outside your setting. Personally I think this is one step too far for a sun protection policy, although I wouldn't be against suggesting that parents might like to bring in sunglasses.

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