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Warning over UV dangers as Bank Holiday UV levels set to soar

With the Met Office forecasting “VERY HIGH” UV levels this bank holiday[1] Eye Health UK is issuing a stark warning to parents to protect their children’s eyes from the sun or put them at risk of permanent sight loss.


When the UV Index reaches three or more[2] – even on cloudy days – wearing sunglasses or UV protective lenses is vital, especially for children. Yet, 45 per cent of parents say their children ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ wear sunglasses[3].

Our eyes are ten times more sensitive to UV light than our skin and children’s eyes are at the greatest risk of UV damage. Big pupils and clearer lenses mean up to 70 per cent more UV light reaches the retina than in an adult's eye. In fact, 80 per cent of a lifetime’s UV is absorbed into the eye by the time a child reaches the age of 18[4].


Short-term exposure to UV can lead to photophobia – visual discomfort and sensitivity to bright light or photokeratitis, a sunburn-like condition that can last 48 hours or so.


However, cumulative exposure to UV can lead to permanent sight loss – it is one of the main risk factors of age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of sight loss in the UK) and cataracts, a clouding of the eyes lens, which affects one in three people aged over 65 years.


Other potential eye health problems related to UV exposure include pterygium – a growth on the white of the eye, which encroaches onto the cornea and can obscure your vision. Repeated exposure to sunlight can also increase your risk of cancer of the eyelid and the skin surrounding the eye.


David Cartwright, Chairman of Eye Health UK explains: “We should all be aware of the harm UV can do to our eye health. Popping on a pair of sunglasses when slapping on the sunscreen is a habit that would benefit us all and prevent future avoidable sight loss.


David continues: Ideally all children - and adults - should wear good quality sunglasses and a peaked hat when spending any time outdoors. It's especially important for parents to safeguard their children's eyes when they are playing on the beach or by water where there is a lot of reflected light.”


Brimmed hats and sunshades attached to prams and pushchairs will generally provide adequate protection for babies and very young children.


When buying sunglasses, you should always ensure that they carry a UV 400, CE or British Standard mark to ensure that the sunglasses offer a safe level of UV protection.


‘Toy’ sunglasses or those not providing at least 99 per cent protection from UVA & UVB can actually cause more damage because the tinted lenses dilate the pupil allowing more UV light to enter the eye.


Eye Health UK’s Top Tips for Kids’ Eye Protection


  1. Wear sunglasses that carry a UV 400, CE or British Standard mark.
  2. For maximum protection wear a cap or brimmed hat in addition to your sunglasses.
  3. Stay out of the midday sun.
  4. Choose plastic or toughened glass lenses for added durability.
  5. Ensure the sunglasses fit well and feel comfortable – your optician can advise on styles and sizes to ensure maximum protection and fit. Foam frames can be a good option very young children.
  1. When slapping on sun screen remember to pop on a pair of sunglasses.


[1] The Met Office forecasts Solar UV highs of eight

[2] Log on to http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/uk/uk_forecast_uv.html for daily UV index

[3] Eyecare Trust, UV Report 2009

[4] According to the World Health Organisation


Published 25 May 2017