There’s one travel accessory that should be on the top of every packing list in every season – sunglasses. Besides making you look great in photos, they protect you from potential eye damage from varying intensities of UV exposure, even on a cloudy day.
Whether strolling through Central Park in NYC , the Champs Elysees in Paris or grocery shopping at home, sunglasses help protect eyes and the delicate skin around them from damage, including melanoma.
Simply, wearing sunglasses outdoors and even in the car can help prevent conditions such as macular degeneration, cataracts, some cancers of the eye and eyelids, as well as photokeratitis (sunburn of the eyes) which can cause temporary pain, redness, blurry vision, and light sensitivity
UV Exposure During Travel
Whether exploring historical sites, lounging on a beach, or even during transit on airplanes or trains, travelers are continuously exposed to varying intensities of UV exposure. This can lead to permanent consequences over time.
According to recent research in Frontiers in Oncology, the effective UV radiation dose rises by 2% for every degree increase in temperature. That makes it all the more important to wear sunglasses in warm weather, especially on vacation close to the Equator, such as in the Caribbean or on safari in Africa.
The depletion of the ozone layer in recent years, influenced by climate change, has led to an increase in UV-B radiations reaching the Earth’s surface, making sunglass protection even more important everywhere.
Back in 2002, the WHO had already estimated that 20% of cataract cases, equivalent to 3 million patients annually worldwide, could be attributed to UV exposure. That means a 1% sustained decrease in ozone could contribute to a 0.5% increase in cataract cases due to UV exposure alone.
More recent studies continue to establish a direct link between climate change and eye diseases.
A 2021 Spanish research project noted that individuals exposed to more than 5 hours of summer sun daily during adolescence or their 30s face an elevated risk of developing increased macular pigment and early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) 10 years earlier than those with less than 2 hours of sun exposure during the same periods.
Additionally, the odds of experiencing cortical and sub-capsular cataracts were 1.1 to 2.5 times higher with excessive sun exposure. In both instances, one accessory emerged as crucial in the prevention of these vision-threatening conditions: sunglasses.
The same Spanish research notes that individuals who wore sunglasses (and hats) for at least half of the time they were under the sun had a 49% lower risk of epithelial depigmentation of retinal pigment, the medical term for damage to the retina.
Sunglass usage also was associated with 38% lower odds of developing posterior sub-capsular cataracts.
Finding the Right Sunglasses for Travel
All sunglasses are not equal, and it’s crucial to consider UV protection alongside style and utility.
When in doubt, reputable brands known for quality sunglasses offer a great starting point as they guarantee the right level of protection.
Oakley sunglasses are frequently endorsed by high-performance athletes and adventurers due to the lenses’ proven ability to block 100% of UVA and UVB rays, and the wraparound design of the frames make them ideal for sunny and sweaty days.
The brand is set to release new items for the American athletes prior to the games in the form of the Team USA Encoder Strike Vented, with Prizm Road Lenses and Team USA Heliostat with Prizm Black Lenses.
The Prizm technology is a plus, enhancing contrast and detail for optimal performance when hiking or surfing during your travels. Otherwise, you can do your own research.
Try referencing guidelines for professions who travel frequently, such as pilots. Here is the eye protection requirement from the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
They recommend sunglasses with neutral tints, not exceeding 80% absorption, and frames large enough to provide ample protection from oblique-angled sunlight.
By prioritizing sunglasses among your travel accessories, you can enhance your experience while safeguarding precious vision.
So pack the right pair of shades and enjoy a protected adventure anywhere in the world. I’m a skier, so that includes protective ski goggles in colder weather.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter is a journalist with 20+ years of experience as a newspaper and magazine writer, radio & TV news producer & reporter, and author of guidebooks and smartphone apps – all focusing on travel, automotive, the environment and your rights as a consumer.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter currently serves as President of the International Motor Press Assn. (IMPA), a former Board Member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and a current member of the North American Travel Journalists Assn. (NATJA) and the North American Snowsports Journalists Assn. (NASJA).
Contact me at email@example.com.
Copyright (C) Evelyn Kanter