Viewing the Solar Eclipse: How Kids Can Do it Safely

There is much excitement around the total solar eclipse taking place on August 21, 2017. Understandably so – it only happens around every 18 months and is an unbelievable sight. Even if you aren’t in the “path of totality” much of the country will be able to see a partial solar eclipse, which is still pretty cool.

As a pediatric optometrist, it’s my role to help families understand the importance of vision health and safety. In general, I think most people are aware that staring at the sun is a bad idea. However, there is some confusion about how to look at it safely during an eclipse, when the moon partially or completely covers the sun and it gets dark outside.

Viewing the solar eclipse safely is paramount. In fact, the absolute safest way to watch it is on TV. If children watch the eclipse without taking the proper precautions, they can cause severe and permanent vision loss, called solar retinopathy.

Looking directly at the sun can cause burns on the retina the same way that it burns your skin. Unfortunately, this is painless, so your child won’t notice that it’s happening. So what can parents and educators do to make sure kids are viewing it safely?  Here are a few tips:

 

Tips for Viewing the Solar Eclipse Safely

1. Wear eclipse glasses from a reputable vendor with ISO approved number ISO 12312-2.

If you are in an area with a partial eclipse, it is NOT SAFE for your kids to remove their glasses at any point while looking at it. Sunglasses, even if they are dark and/or polarized, will not protect their eyes. Eclipse glasses do not let any light through and block out all images, except for a faint image of the sun.

2. Supervise young children.

Make sure that they put their eclipse glasses on before looking at the sun and take them off after they look away from it.

3. Make sure the eclipse glasses are not damaged.

If they are scratched or damaged in any way, do not use them.

4. Ensure the eclipse glasses are tightly fitting.

The eclipse glasses should completely cover your child’s eyes and fit snugly so that no light peeks through.

5. Do not look at the sun through an unfiltered telescope or binoculars.

The lenses of these optical devices will not protect your eyes without a special filter. Furthermore, even if your child is wearing eclipse glasses, they should not look at the sun through a telescope or camera because the concentrated solar rays can damage the glasses and still injure their eyes.

6. Have a serious chat with your kids about safety.

Discuss with your children how important these steps are to ensuring their eye health. If they take their eclipse glasses off at any time, they run the risk of causing permanent and lifelong vision loss.

 

Remember, there is no part of the Tri-state area that is in the path of the total eclipse. Therefore, it is never safe to remove the eclipse glasses while viewing it.

To learn more about ophthalmology at Cincinnati Children’s, or to schedule an appointment, please call 513-636-4751 or fill out a form for more information.

 

Melissa Rice, DO, FAAO

About the Author: Melissa Rice, DO, FAAO

Melissa Rice, OD, FAAO, is a pediatric optometrist at Cincinnati Children’s. She specializes in amblyopia, strabismus and cortical visual impairment. Dr. Rice works with the Perlman Center providing functional vision evaluations on children with cerebral palsy and cortical visual impairment.

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Comments

  1. SuperMommers08 August 17, 15:40
    Thank you for your blog post about viewing the eclipse safely. There's so much conflicting information being shared on the Internet, so it's nice to have a resource I know I can trust!
  2. MommaR August 18, 11:41
    Just to be clear, though, you mean it is not safe to look up without solar glasses, not just be outside without the glasses. Parents are scared that it is dangerous for kids to, for example, ride home on a school bus during the eclipse because they don't have the glasses. Schools are announcing that they will not let kids go outside and will also pull the blinds shut and accompany kids through the hallways between classes so no one looks outside and goes blind. Seriously.
    • Melissa Rice, DO, FAAO
      Melissa Rice, DO, FAAO Author August 18, 12:55
      Hi MommaR, Yes, that’s correct – it is never safe to look at the sun or an eclipsed sun without wearing approved eclipse glasses (even though it may be tempting with an eclipsed sun). Children, and adults too, can be outside during the eclipse, but need to be careful to not look at it.
      • Nicole August 18, 22:36
        I am taking my kids out half day and watching at home together. I am afraid my kids will just be too curious!
  3. Jenny August 18, 22:20
    I have 2 daughters that are in high school. Their dismissal time at school is during the time period of the eclipse. Is it safe for my oldest daughter to be driving them both home from school during this time? What is the time frame that is not safe for their eyes, to be outside without protective eyeglasses?
    • Melissa Rice, DO, FAAO
      Melissa Rice, DO, FAAO Author August 21, 10:28
      Hi Jenny, It is safe for your daughters to be outside during the eclipse. What is not safe is for them to look at the sun without approved eclipse glasses. Simply remind them that even though it may look a little weird outside, to not look up at the sun (unless they're wearing eclipse glasses).