Sunday, April 17, 2016

Of Sun And Sunglasses!

Warning: Public Service Announcement follows. This is info that falls into the category of, "It might be good for me, but I don't want to hear it..."

 On an amazing day last week, we went for a hike under a blazing, hot, high-altitude, spring sun. We went by a dad who carried his little girl on his shoulders.

This picture of fatherly devotion was unfortunately marred. While dad had on a hat and dark sunglasses, daughter - a cute little blonde girl - was without hat and without sunglasses. She squinted against the blinding reflection of the sun on snow.

Even from a distance, we could see that her blue eyes were red, and her scowl was intense. The poor girl was suffering from a serious burn to her skin as well as her retinas. Dad was being so nice to take his daughter out, and he no doubt had no clue about the health hazard he was inflicting on his daughter.

Some years ago, I interviewed an ocularist, a person who makes artificial eyes. She told me that the number one cause of loss of eyes was eye cancer contracted by people with blue eyes, people whose pale irises couldn't take intense sunshine.

And of course we all know what dermatologists say, that sunburn as a child contributes to melanomas as an adult.

Maybe the dad had tried to get his daughter to wear sunglasses and hat and she refused. As a guy without children, I don't pretend to know what difficulties ensue when attempting to convince kids to take protective measures.

But I often notice that teenagers wear sunglasses in dark situations, times and places where it's obvious that they are putting on their Oakleys more because they look cool than because they are trying to protect their eyes.

There must be a simple psychological approach to getting young kids to think that their sunglasses and hat are as cool as their new shoes. Instead of treating sunglasses as protection,  parents could probably do the "reverse psychology" thing of treating sunglasses as a cool accessory, like a new pair of Nikes, a reward to be bestowed as an honor rather than a nagging request for sensible health.

It's hard to get the image out of my mind. Dad happy to enjoy his sunglasses-shaded outing in a spectacular landscape on a beautiful day while his daughter burns. For the next several days, he'll think his little girl is an irritable, complaining problem child while in fact she is coping with serious injury that may lead to future eye cancer.

He wouldn't let his daughter put herself in danger with other sources of burn. But he's willingly carrying her around at 7000 feet under the hot sun with no protection at all.

Please help spread the word to people you know who have children. Sunglasses are not just comforts for adults. They are essential protection for all people without very dark eyes. Especially on reflective snow or water. Especially at high altitude. Make those sunglasses cool. Be hard and uncompromising if necessary. Do whatever it takes.

That ocularist earns a good living making prostheses for people who are blinded by too much sun.

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