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Protect their eyes!

Many parents don’t realize it, but even children need sunglasses.

Sunglasses for kids
Photo by: Thinkstock
I know that it’s vital to protect adults’ eyes from the sun’s rays, but is it important even for young children to wear sunglasses? One doesn’t see many young children using them. My kids, ages four and five-and-a-half, didn’t like to wear them when I bought a pair for each of them.

They tried once when outdoors in their kindergarten classes, but none of the other children had any, and they said they felt “silly.” If it is important, should I insist? – C.N., Tel Aviv Dr. Yosef Pikel, head of the ophthalmology department at Ziv Medical Center in Safed, replies: The harm caused to the eyes from a young age is not well known in the population, so few parents make sure their children wear sunglasses that filter out the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. The subject definitely does not get enough attention.

Long exposure to the powerful rays increases the prevalence of the disease that causes degeneration of the retina and causes blindness in adults.

The damage of UV radiation is cumulative.

Thus the younger they are, the better that they get used to sunglasses, and as they grow older they will be used to wearing them, especially in the summer, when the sun is most intense. Awareness of the risks is slowly growing, so just as we supply children with broad-brimmed hats and apply sunscreen when they’re outdoors, especially in the summer, we should give them sunglasses. This should become a habit when going out in the sun.

I know that many youngsters complain about discomfort, but try to give them positive feedback about using them.

Despite their tendency to lose things, including sunglasses, you should not give up. Letting the kids pick out the sunglasses themselves so the pair is a comfortable fit and attractive makes it easier to get them to use them. Just make sure that they are really protective against UV and have a sticker [from an authoritative source confirming this]. Purchase them from a reliable shop such as an optometrist or pharmacy.

They do not have to be expensive to be effective. Encouraging them to take care of and wear sunglasses teaches them responsibility.

Children with light-colored eyes are most exposed to UV damage. Blue and other light-colored eyes transfer more sunlight into the eye, so fair children must be especially careful in the summer to protect their eyes.

My husband recently went to a drugstore in Texas and got a shot against shingles (herpes zoster). If Varivax vaccine for chicken pox (for children) is available here in Israel, why isn’t Zostavax, the vaccine for shingles recommended for use in people who are 60 years old? I am currently in the US on a visit and wonder if I should get the vaccination here. – S.S., Beit Shemesh I was wondering if the shingles vaccination is available and is covered by Kupat Holim Meuhedet.

If one contracted shingles in mid-life, is it recommended to be vaccinated decades later? – J.F., Michmoret Howard Rice, a veteran pharmacist, replies: In Israel, about three out of 100,000 people get shingles (herpes zoster), but this number grows in the over-70 age group to 10 in 1,000. Shingles can spread after being in contact with chicken pox (varicella) or someone who has had recently received the vaccine.

As it can be very painful, it would seem wise for the vaccine for shingles (Zostavax) to be available here, since there is a threat that massive vaccination of children against chicken pox could threaten spreading of herpes zoster – and this is the case in Israel.

Having said this, Health Ministry professionals will not introduce this or any other pharmaceutical onto the market here until it has checked thoroughly all the aspects of the medication’s use. This is their responsibility, and they justifiably will not rubber-stamp everything that comes in from abroad, even from the US.

Many medications are restricted abroad and permitted here – and vice versa. I am sure that as soon as the necessary tests and information have been examined, verified and approved, the vaccine will appear in the pharmacies.

The ministry has not yet authorized the distribution of Zostavax, and thus it not available through Meuhedet or other health funds. My advice is, if you require it, buy it in the US. The vaccine will help prevent a recurrence of the disease and therefore is recommended for people over 70.

Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or email it to jsiegel@jpost.com, giving your initials, age and place of residence.


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