Children Should Wear Sunglasses in the Winter

Baby in sunglasses in the winter

Sunny days can be a huge inconvenience if you forget your sunglasses. But what about winter days? You may not realize it, but 80% of the sun’s rays are reflected off snow, which is far more than grass, sand and even water. UV damage to your eyes is accumulated over time, so putting sunglasses on your child early on can have a huge impact on the health of her eyes later in life. Here are some things you may not have known about the winter sun:

Snow Blindness
A type of photokeratitis, snow blindness occurs as a result of overexposure when the winter sun reflects off snow. In essence, it is a type of sunburn to the outer layer of the eye. The symptoms of snow blindness can be hard to spot, so it’s important to know what it looks like:

  • Infants: Snow blindness in infants manifests as excessive blinking in conjunction with crankiness. Note that infants under 6 months should not be exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Children: A child may start complaining that her eyes are “hurting,” may be sensitive to light, have dry, red eyes or difficulty blinking. These symptoms appear up to 12 hours after overexposure, but pain and a short period of blurred vision can arise later on.

Altitude increases radiation
Many families enjoy ski trips in winter months, but it’s important to remember that being in the mountains means you’re at an altitude that leaves you more vulnerable to radiation. The thinner atmosphere lets in a higher amount of UV than when you’re close to sea level.

The sun can still burn a child’s eyelids
Sunburn is still a possibility in winter months, so sunglasses and hats should still be worn when you plan to have long periods of time outdoors. The skin on your eyelids can be burned more easily than one may think, as it is thinner than the rest of your skin.

When buying sunglasses for your family, be sure you’re purchasing at least 99% UV-A/UV-B protection. The glasses should fit snugly and protect the entirety of the eye. If you’re able to, enlist the help of a pediatric ophthalmologist to recommend a pair of sunglasses that suits your child.

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