"There is a lot of research that shows the harmful effects of too much sunlight for a child's eyes. Sunlight over exposure 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.
But, McDonnell said, there are a lot of sunglasses out there that are not effective at protecting kids' eyes from damaging rays.
When choosing sunglasses for kids they should: Have a wrap-around 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 suggests wearing a hat with a brim to protect the eyes and face from too much sun exposure.
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 noted.