Loyola Pediatric Ophthalmologist Says Balance is Key for Kids and Sunlight

News Archive May 30, 2013

Loyola Pediatric Ophthalmologist Says Balance is Key for Kids and Sunlight

Pediatric Ophthalmologist Warns Too Much or Too Little Sunlight Bad for Kids

MAYWOOD, Ill. – Summer months are just on the horizon bringing wonderful warm days filled with sunshine. For most parents, sending kids outside to play includes lathering them with sunscreen to protect their skin from too much of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, but what about protecting their eyes?

“There is a lot of research that shows the harmful effects of too much sunlight for a child’s eyes. Sunlight overexposure can lead to aging of the lens and retina damage,” said James McDonnell, MD, medical director of pediatric ophthalmology at Loyola University Health System and professor of ophthalmology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

McDonnell suggests that if a child is going to be in the sun for 20 minutes or longer, sunglasses are essential.

“There are a lot of sunglasses out there that are not effective at protecting kids’ eyes from damaging rays,” McDonnell said.

Sunglasses for kids should:

  • Have a wraparound frame to protect from peripheral light
  • Be transparent enough to see a child’s eyes through the lens
  • Not be made of dangerous chemicals, such as bisphehol or phthalates
  • Fit properly and comfortably
  • Have lenses that protect from UVA and UVB rays

“Children with fair skin tend to have lighter colored eyes and are more vulnerable to too much sun exposure. No matter what their eye color, all children who have prolonged sun exposure should wear good sunglasses,” McDonnell said.

He also suggested wearing a hat with a brim to protect the eyes and face from too much sun exposure.

“Light sensitivity can run in the family. So, if you are sensitive to light, your child might be, too,” McDonnell said. “Still, if your child has an unusual sensitivity to light, it could be a symptom of a medical condition and it’s important for the child to see a pediatric ophthalmologist."

Though parents need to protect their children’s eyes from too much sun exposure, too little also can be a problem.

“Our eyes need sunlight. We shouldn’t avoid being in the sun. Sunlight exposure does a lot of good things for our bodies, like driving melatonin production, and is important for the sleep cycle. You just don’t want too much of a good thing,” McDonnell said.
For media inquiries, please contact Evie Polsley at epolsley@lumc.edu or call (708) 216-5313 or (708) 417-5100.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.
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