Sunglasses importance highlighted

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Slip, slop, slap and wrap ... Ashburton optometrist Douglas Mullan, pictured, urges children to include sunglasses in routine daily sun protection.

Ashburton optometrist Douglas Mullan is calling for parents/caregivers to adopt a no sunnies, no play rule for summer.

Mr Mullan, an optometrist at SpecSavers, says research commissioned by the company had found four in five children Canterbury-wide, under the age of 16, did not always wear sunglasses outside during the day in summer.

It also found that 82 percent of those children owned a pair of sunglasses, but less than a quarter (21 percent) used them in summer.

Furthermore, a third (or 36 percent) may not be fully protecting their eyes as their parents admitting the frames did not have full UV protection, or were unsure if they did.

Mr Mullan warned that children could absorb more UV into their eyes because their pupils were larger and the lens of their eyes is clearer.

‘‘Studies have shown, however, that wearing sunglasses together with a wide brimmed hat can reduce UV exposure by as much as 98 percent.’’

Teaching children good practices when they were younger could help them protect their eyes in later life, he said.

‘‘New Zealand has one of the highest levels of UV in the world, so its critical to encourage children to be sun safe and instil good behaviours when they’re younger so they set themselves up for life. Long term exposure to UV can lead to sight-threatening conditions such as macular degeneration, or even cancer.’’

For children under the age of 10, the main barriers to consistent sunglass wearing, according to parents, was parents/child forgetting (34 percent), child finding them uncomfortable (32 percent) and kids always taking them off (31 percent). For older kids between 10-16, forgetting to put them on was the main barrier (37 percent).

‘‘As a parent myself, I understand how difficult it can be to get kids to wear, and keep wearing, their sunglasses, so having a simple no sunnies, no play’ rule, just like with seat belts and driving, helps kids to know they can’t go outside and play without their sunglasses,‘‘ he said.

‘‘The most important thing is to slip, slop, slap, seek and wrap.

‘‘When you’re outside, slip on sun protective clothing, slop on SPF 30 or higher sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and wrap on sunglasses that provide UV protection.’’