The children and the future

Look around next time you’re outdoors, or driving on a sunny day, and you’ll notice something: most of the adults are in sunglasses; very few of the children are.

OK, sunglasses are fashion, but they’re also about comfort, and about health. Kids are as squinty as we are when sand, water, windows or cars are glaring sunshine at us – apparently the intensity of light then is up to 12 times what the eye naturally needs to see.

There are consequences. There’s sunburn of the cornea (correctly called photokeratitis) – not permanent, but it hurts. And sun causes eye cancer – that hurts a lot more. Kids’ eyes don’t block as much of the damaging ultraviolet stuff as adult eyes do, so they’re more vulnerable to both these things. Why do we hide our own eyes, but expose those of our children?

There’s another big ‘why’ in my mind at the moment, and it has to do with cars. I ordinarily drive a grown-up heavy-ish car with airbags and a solid body. Last week, I was bashed on a motorway, seriously enough to send my car to hospital for three weeks or more. Apart from a bit of whiplash and a lot of shock, I was fine. Insurance came through with a courtesy car, so life is peachy.

Except it’s not. The courtesy car is the very basic model of one of the most popular light cars on the market. It’s zippy, and uses no petrol, and parks in spaces as tiny as envelopes. Parents buy it for their precious 18-year-olds when they check out of late-night lift duty. It’s cheap, it’s cheerful; I can see why it’s so popular.
But if I had been in one of those when the boy racer bashed me last week, I’d be lucky to be writing this newsletter today.

I admit I’m probably feeling hyper-vulnerable. But the truth is, we are vulnerable on the roads. Very. And insurance company stats tell us that the younger you are, the more likely you are to be in an accident. Yet parents put their children in cars that wouldn’t survive the boy racer.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know that every day is precious, health is precious, and as a society, we’re sometimes more than a little careless – and sometimes oblivious. Drive carefully. And think again about the little things.

 (Heather Parker, Health24, May 2009)

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