Eye Safety During Solar Eclipses: Expert Tips from a Pediatric Ophthalmologist

March 22, 2024

On April 8, some Mercy communities will experience a total - or near total - solar eclipse. You won’t want to miss this celestial event as the moon passes between the sun and the earth, completely blocking the sun from view.

This year’s solar eclipse, known as the “Great North American Eclipse,” will be approximately four minutes – twice as long as the eclipse in 2017. It's important to remember that looking directly at the eclipse without protection can lead to permanent damage.

Here are some tips from Dr. Maria Stunkel, a pediatric opthalmologist at Mercy St. Louis, to protect your eyes from the powerful rays of the sun.


Eclipse Glasses

  • Get the right glasses. Make sure to equip your family with special glasses made for watching the eclipse. The glasses, called  “solar viewing glasses,” protect our eyes from damage. Regular sunglasses and even welder’s glasses are not safe. Look for “ISO 12312-2” to confirm they meet international safety standards.
  • Check your glasses. Before using your eclipse glasses, check them over to make sure there are no scratches or holes. If they are damaged, don’t use them!
  • Practice, practice, practice. Have your kids put their glasses on and practice looking at the sun before the big day to get the hang of it.
  • Get your glasses early. Order glasses early so there is plenty of time to practice. Community events and/or local libraries may also give out eclipse glasses in limited quantities before the event. The American Astronomical Society lists reputable companies and organizations selling eclipse glasses at eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters.

Pinhole Projector

For those without special glasses, it’s easy to make your own sun viewer, called a pinhole projector, at home. The simple device projects an image of the sun onto a surface and provides an indirect view of the eclipse. It may be difficult for kids under 5 to understand this view, but it works well for older children.

NASA offers an easy tutorial on how to make your own projector. It’s a great craft to get kids excited about the eclipse.

It’s important to always turn away from the sun while still holding the viewer over your eyes before removing it from your face. 

Mercy doctor's coat Mercy co-workers view the solar eclipse in August 2017

Important Tips

Whether you use eclipse glasses or a pinhole projector, if you’re in an area where the moon covers the sun completely, you can look without them. However, as soon as the bright sun reappears, immediately resume using eclipse glasses or the solar filter.

Never look at the sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope or binoculars. Even with eclipse glasses, the powerful rays from the sun can damage the filter and cause serious eye injuries.

By following these safety tips, you can enjoy the celestial spectacle without compromising your vision.

Mercy doctor's coat Maria L. Stunkel, MD / Specialty Pediatric Ophthalmology

Helful Links & Resources

Local eclipse events and resources: 


Eclipse map over U.S. with timing to view eclipse:


Solar eclipse eye safety:


NASA Live Stream

Stuck inside on eclipse day or mother nature didn’t cooperate? NASA offers a live stream of the solar eclipse. The live stream can be accessed at nasa.gov/nasatv.