Why everyone needs sunglasses and hats this summer

Woman in sunglasses

Enjoying summertime outdoors can be fun and carefree, as long as we protect ourselves from overexposure to sunlight. Most people remember to use sunscreen to shield their skin from damage, but many don't realize the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light can harm the eyes, as well. Luckily, today it's easy to find cool-looking, affordable sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV light. Add a broad-brimmed hat, and your eyes will be ready to meet this summer's UV challenge! 

Eye medical doctors (ophthalmologists) caution us that too much exposure to UV light raises the risks of eye diseases, including cataract, macular degeneration, growths on the eye, and cancer.

See Also: What causes cataracts?

Growths on the eye, such as pterygium, can show up in our teens or twenties, especially in surfers, skiers, fishermen, farmers, or anyone who spends long hours under the mid-day sun or in the UV-intense conditions found near rivers, oceans, and mountains.  

Diseases like cataract, age-related macular degeneration, and eye cancers can take many years to develop, but each time we're out in the sun without protection we could be adding damage that adds to our risks for these serious disorders. Babies and kids need to wear hats and sunglasses for this very reason. People of all ages should take precautions whenever they are outdoors.

The good news is that you can easily protect yourself! In order to be eye smart in the sun, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following:

Wear sunglasses labeled “100% UV protection": Use only glasses that block both UV-A and UV-B rays and that are labeled either UV400 or 100% UV protection.

  • Choose wraparound styles so that the sun's rays can't enter from the side.
  • If you wear UV-blocking contact lenses, you'll still need sunglasses.

See Also: Facts and tips about sunglasses.

Wear a hat along with your sunglasses; broad-brimmed hats are best.

Remember the kids: It’s best to keep children out of direct sunlight during the middle of the day. Make sure they wear sunglasses and hats whenever they are in the sun.

Know that clouds don’t block UV light: The sun’s rays can pass through haze and clouds. Sun damage to the eyes can occur any time of year, not just in summer.

Be extra careful in UV-intense conditions: Sunlight is strongest mid-day to early afternoon, at higher altitudes, and when reflected off of water, ice or snow.

By embracing these simple tips you and your family can enjoy the summer sun safely while protecting your vision.

Listen to EyeSmart's UV safety public service announcements in English (MP3 audio) and Spanish (MP3 audio) to learn more.

See Also: Winter UV Safety

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