Cold weather and snowy fields may limit outdoor activities, but when outdoors it is important to protect the eyes. Ultraviolet radiation is not as intense during the winter months, but the high reflectivity of snow increases the exposure. Snow can reflect 80% of all UV rays on a sunny winter day versus 10% reflection from grass or 15% from beach sand. With prolonged exposure, “snow blindness” or photokerititis may harm the eye and symptoms may not occur until 6-12 hours after the exposure. Complaints of sensitivity to light or a feeling of having sand in the eye are common with “snow blindness” prior to treatment.
A child’s developing eye allows 70% more transmission of UV rays to the retina versus that of an adult eye. With most of the UV exposure to the internal eye before age 18, sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection is very important for children. It will help to protect against “snow blindness” and limit the radiations effect later in life with macular degeneration and cataracts.
Remember to bundle your kids for their snow fort building, skiing or sledding adventure, and don’t forget the sunglasses.