Despite the fashionable look of today’s eyewear, the time may still come when your child will ask to make the switch from glasses to contact lenses. As reported in a recent consumer update from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are pros, cons and caveats to consider before you allow your child to wear contacts.
According to Dr. Bernard Lepri, an optometrist for the FDA, contacts “can be better for sport activities, because they don’t break as frames and the lenses of glasses can, and they provide better peripheral vision for sports or driving, if your teen is of driving age.”
In addition, a three-year study conducted by the Ohio State University College of Optometry in 2007 showed that the self-esteem of children between the ages of 8 and 11 greatly improved when wearing contact lenses as opposed to glasses. This was especially true for girls.
A 2010 study published in Pediatrics revealed about 13,500 of the roughly more than 70,000 children who go to the ER each year for injuries and complications from medical devices are related to contact lenses. The most frequently reported problems were infections and eye abrasions.
According to Lepri, irresponsibility and a lack of good hygiene are the main causes for problems related to contact lenses. And kids can find all sorts of ways to circumvent good hygiene, including using saliva to wet their lenses, wearing another child’s contacts, and not washing their hands when they handle their lenses.
Age vs. responsibility
So how do you decide if your child is ready to wear contact lenses?
“Eye care professionals typically don’t recommend contacts for kids until they are 12 or 13, because the risks are often greater than the benefits for younger children,” said the FDA’s Lepri.
However, Lepri added that age isn’t the only issue. Your child’s maturity and ability to handle responsibility must also be considered. Does your child regularly do assigned tasks? Is your child mature enough to follow the eye doctor’s instructions for contact lens use and care?
If you answered yes to these questions and you think your child is a good candidate for wearing contacts, it is important that he or she takes the following precautions:
- Always wash hands before cleaning or inserting lenses.
- Only use products recommended by eye care professionals to rinse and disinfect lenses.
- Never put a contact lens into an eye that is red.
- Never wear someone else’s contacts.
- Don’t ignore itching, burning, irritation or redness of the eye. These symptoms could signal a potentially dangerous infection. If symptoms are present, remove lenses and contact an eye care professional.
- Girls should apply cosmetics after inserting lenses and remove them before removing makeup.
Which lenses are best?
WebMD suggests that if your eye doctor prescribes disposable soft lenses for your child, you should consider the daily disposable lenses over the extended wear type, which are worn for two weeks and then discarded. Though slightly more expensive, the daily-wear contacts eliminate the need for disinfecting and cleaning, and therefore makes lens care simpler.
Still, parents must be prepared to monitor their children’s use of contacts. “It takes vigilance on the part of the parents,” says Lepri. “You need to be constantly looking over your child’s shoulder.”