Contact Lenses and Kids : Helpful Tips for Parents

I wear contacts, so I understand the appeal of them. I started wearing them as a teenager and remember the joy of not having to wear my glasses every day.

However, it seems that children are wearing contact lenses at younger and younger ages. After my friend’s 10-year-old daughter recently had a bad experience with trying to use contacts, I started researching childrens' use of these lenses a little more.

How old should my child be?

Most eye-care professionals agree that recommending contacts for children under the age of 12 or 13 years increases the risks associated with contact use. Age isn't the only factor, however. Consider the maturity and responsibility level of each child.

Medical devices, not fashion accessories

First off, anyone getting contacts should understand that contacts require proper care by the wearer and supervision by the eye-care provider. The wearer must also be mindful that the eye can be seriously injured if contact lenses are used improperly. The most frequent complications are infection and eye abrasions (scratches), but more serious and worrisome is the development of an ulceration on the surface of the eye, which can result in permanent vision loss.

Eye scratches (corneal abrasions) can happen even with normal insertion or removal of a contact lens. I’ve done it and it hurts—a lot! However, the majority of complications from contact lens use can be avoided with proper care and technique.

Good contact care and technique

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your contacts, whether you’re inserting them or removing themor even if you’re just bringing your hands up anywhere near your eyes.
  • Use products approved for contact lens care and disinfecting. (I’ve seen people take a contact lens out, suck on it a bit, and then stick it back in their eye. Not a good idea.)
  • Avoid use of contacts in eyes that are red, painful, or itchy. That’s usually a sign that something is wrong in the eye, and contacts could aggravate the problem. Sometimes, taking a day or two off from wearing your contact lens will allow the problem to clear up. If it worsens, an evaluation by a healthcare provider may be necessary.
  • For girls, throw away out-of-date cosmetics such as mascara and eyeliner—contaminated makeup and contacts do not mix. Put on your makeup after putting in your contacts.
  • Don’t keep lenses in for too long—i.e., don’t sleep with them in. Take them out before bed. Most disinfectants state that lenses need to soak for at least 6 to 8 hours. In fact, most eye professionals discourage use of extended-wear lenses in children and teens. The risk for corneal ulceration is greater with prolonged wearing of contact lenses.

Supervise your child. Don’t assume that just because they’ve taken this big step of getting contacts that they will do everything perfectly. It’s a good idea to check in periodically and remind them of appropriate contact lens care.

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