Almost half of all eye injuries occur in sports and recreational activities, and more often in children and teens than any other age group, according to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. The American Academy of Ophthalmology also says sports deserve particular attention because eye injuries occur fairly often in children and young adult athletes.
Dr. David Sami, a CHOC pediatric ophthalmologist and pediatric eye surgeon, recommends that children playing certain sports wear protective goggles, sport goggles or a mask of some kind to protect the eyes. Dr. Sami notes that certain sports in particular carry a higher risk for eye injuries, such as sports that use a small ball or puck, like golf and hockey. Paintball and racquet ball also are a concern.
When it comes to eye and vision protection, the sun’s rays and excessive screen time, especially on a small cellphone screen, also tend to raise parents’ concerns, says Dr. Sami.
“Parents often worry about the sun damaging eyes,” says Dr. Sami. “The boney rim above the eye, the eyelashes, eyebrows and pupils all provide natural defenses against the sun. There is no problem against wearing sunglasses but I’m a bigger fan of kids wearing hats or caps because hats also protect the skin from future skin cancer, as well as protecting the eyes from the sun. Sunglasses are an effective measure but a hat offers greater protection,” he says.
What about the concern over children spending several hours a day looking at small screens on mobile device? Dr. Sami says there is no evidence to date that looking at a screen for long periods of time will damage your eyes. However, he says, excessive screen time does limit kids’ world experience because it stops them from doing other healthy activities like playing outside.
“There is no known danger to the eyes from a screen but you’re missing out on playing and the physical and emotional development that is so important.”
Here are some other tips to protect children’s eyes from injury:
• Keep all chemicals and sprays out of reach of small children.
• Only purchase age-appropriate toys.
• Avoid projectile toys such as darts.
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