Should Kids Wear Contacts?
Children can safely wear and be successful with contact lenses, if they or their parents care for them properly. If the child is a teenager, having the support of a parent or other adult to help encourage healthy wear and care behaviors can help reduce the risk of eye infections or other complications. Infants with a large difference in the prescriptions of their eyes or congenital cataracts, often benefit from wearing contact lenses. Of course, contact lens wearers who are very young must have their parent insert and remove their contacts, as well as, clean and care for them. More than 4 million American kids under 18 wear contact lenses. A child's eyes can easily tolerate contact lenses. Almost all kids ages 8-11 have no trouble inserting or removing one-day disposable contacts without the help of their parents. Switching from glasses to contacts is a big adjustment at a young age, but with the encouragement of a parent, their experience can be successful. Parents are most often concerned about safety, and rightly so. Since contact lenses sit directly on the eye itself, they can introduce infection. They are safe as long as they are worn and cared for correctly. Wearing, storing and handling contact lenses improperly is a major factor in lens-related infections.
What are the Benefits?
Wearing contact lenses can provide improved vision and other benefits for all ages. Children often experience benefits beyond just seeing better. These benefits include:
- Better peripheral vision
- Better self-esteem- often kids feel self-conscious about wearing glasses, especially if they have thick lenses. They could make your child a target for teasing. The self-esteem boost that comes with wearing contact lenses could lead to better school performance and more friendships.
- No fogging up, slipping or breaking during sports or play
- Kids are less likely to have dry eyes, which often causes lens-related problems in adults.
- Younger children often follow contact lens instructions better than teenagers and young adults, which leads to fewer problems with over-wearing their contacts or not using the correct contact lens solutions.
What Type of Contact Lens is Best?
There are two types of contact lenses that suit children best. The first type are daily disposable lenses, which do not require nightly cleaning and disinfecting. The child simply throws away the dirty lenses each night and inserts fresh sterile lenses every morning. The second type is rigid gas permeable lenses, or RGPs, which are studier and less likely to tear than soft lenses. The RGP material allows as much or more oxygen to reach the eyes as soft contacts. They often give better optics or crisper vision than glasses or soft contact lenses.
What about Decorative Lenses?
Around Halloween, optometrists are frequently asked to prescribe lenses that add special effects to a costume. They can be safe and fun to wear, but they don't contain the child's prescription. Problems arise when these type of lenses are bought at flea markets, beauty stores or costume stores and not from their optometrist. These lenses have a far lower quality than ones fitted to your child's eyes and can lead to a higher risk of eye infection, injury, vision loss, even blindness.
What is a Parent's Role?
Children depend on their parents or guardians for their medical care. Parents play and active role in the daily safety and health of their children, which includes vision and eye health, especially when it comes to contact lenses. In addition to parental supervision, the parent must consider the child's level of maturity, their motivation to wear contacts, and their personal hygiene habits. It is critical for both parent and child to understand that they share in the responsibility to wear and care for contacts successfully.
Tips for Successful Contact Lens Wear:
For your kids to enjoy their contact lenses while lowering their chance of complications, I have several tips for keeping your child's eyes healthy while wearing contact lenses:
- Wash your hands with soap and water and dry them with a clean towel before handling your contact lenses. When you don't wash your hands, any dirt, oil, lotion, or makeup on your hands will be put into your eyes.
- Keep water away from your contact lenses, so no showering, swimming or hot tubbing with your contacts on. Water may contain bacteria and other microbes that could get into the matrix of the contacts and cause potentially serious infection in the eyes. If you are a swimmer, then purchase a high quality pair of swim googles that have a tight seal around the eyes.
- Don't sleep in your contact lenses, unless specifically approved and prescribed by your optometrist. Sleeping in lenses increases your risk for eye infections, including corneal ulcers.
- Only rub and rinse your contacts with the contact lens disinfecting solution, never use tap or distilled water, homemade non-sterile saline solution or saliva.
- Never store your contact lenses in water.
- Replace your contact lenses on the schedule prescribed by your optometrist. Trying to stretch out the time between lens replacement increases your risk of eye infections and injuries.
- Rinse your contact lens case with contact lens disinfecting solution, never use tap or distilled water or homemade non-sterile saline solution. Empty and dry your case with a clean tissue and store it upside down with the caps off after each use.
- Replace your contact lens case every three months, as old cases can harbor bacteria.
- Use only fresh contact lens disinfecting solution, never topping a case off and mixing old and new disinfecting solution.
- Visit your optometrist every year, or as often as your doctor recommends. Ask your doctor any questions you may have about how to care for your contacts if you are experiencing any difficulties.
- Remove your contact lens immediately if your eye is red, painful, injured, or infected. Call and make an appointment with your optometrist if this occurs.
- Carry a pair of backup glasses with your current prescription, just in case you need to take your contacts out.
- Never trade or share your contacts with someone else.
- Apply your makeup after putting on your contact lenses, not before.
- Use hypoallergenic cosmetics and skin care products, or those marked specifically for contact lens wearers or those with sensitve skin.
What if my Child has Seasonal Allergies?
If your child suffers from hayfever, ask your optometrist about contact lens wear. Many people with seasonal allergies are successful contact lens wearers. During peak times of allergies, the eyes may become red, itchy and irritated, and contacts may then become less comfortable or exacerbate the problem. If your child is not already wearing daily disposable contact lenses, then they may need to be replaced more frequently during their allery season.
Is My Child Ready for Contacts?
Before getting contact lenses, your child needs a complete eye exam and they must understand the benefits of not wearing their glasses and be able to follow the optometrist's instructions each day they wear their contacts. If you think your child is ready, call Larsson Optometry at 209-333-2020 to make an appointment. At Larsson Optometry, we see patients of all ages and are always accepting new patients.
Keep in mind that switching your child from spectacles to contact lenses need not be a permanent decision. If your child is not adapting well to contacts, or is not up to increased responsibility of caring for them, then your child can simply return to wearing glasses. Contact lenses can be fitted again at a later date.
How young can children wear contact lenses?