For children, sunshine and warm weather equal outdoor activity. For parents interested in their children's eye health, it's also the right time to get kids sunglasses and protective eyewear.
Many parents don't think about getting sunglasses for their kids, but everyone is at risk for eye damage as a result of exposure to the sun. And children might be at a higher risk because their developing eyes may be less protected from the sun's ultraviolet rays than those of adults.
Wearing sunglasses that block UV rays can help prevent eye problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration - two leading causes of blindness. Since UV damage is cumulative over a lifetime, it's important for kids to start wearing sunglasses as early as possible to potentially minimize this damage.
Sunglasses must block 99 percent to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays to be effective. The darkness of the lens is not an effective indicator of how well the glasses protect eyes from UV light.
Consult an optometrist to choose the right sunglasses. They are the doctors who provide primary vision care, examining people's eyes to diagnose vision problems and eye diseases.
Obtaining this expert advice can be as simple as visiting your local Wal-Mart or Sam's Club Vision Center. Adjacent to each of the Vision Centers at these stores is an office staffed by knowledgeable, professional and licensed independent optometrists who can provide affordable and comprehensive eye examinations as well as prescriptions for glasses and contacts.
The American Optometric Association recommends comprehensive eye examinations by an eye doctor at 3 and 5 years of age for all children.
"Many children get a cursory eye check when they visit their pediatrician, but only an eye doctor is qualified to perform a comprehensive eye examination," says Dr. Melissa Viker, an independent optometrist who practices next to a Wal-Mart Vision Center.
The optometrist can also offer guidance when it comes to eye protection. Annually there are more than 40,000 sports-related eye injuries - many to children. More than 90 percent of these injuries could be prevented by wearing proper eye protection, such as sports goggles, which are designed for impact resistance, unlike regular eye glasses that could break upon impact and possibly cause serious injury.
Eye protection should be worn during any sport that involves physical contact or a ball, bat, stick, racket or puck.
"A child's vision is a precious commodity, but caring for it doesn't have to be expensive," says Viker. "Wal-Mart and Sam's Club offer expert advice, low-cost examinations and a wide selection of affordable eyewear to help parents provide children with a lifetime of good eye care."