Is Your Child Ready for Contact Lenses?
Key things to consider besides your kid's age
Your tween has his eye on contact lenses — but is he ready for them?
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many kids can handle the responsibility by age 12 or 13. And the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says many pediatric eye doctors use 10 or 11 as the age at which they’ll prescribe contacts for a child.
Wearing contacts can offer real benefits for some kids, besides the obvious plus of not having to wear glasses, according to the FDA. A child who plays a sport will have better peripheral vision (an advantage for older teens starting to drive as well). He also won’t have to worry about breaking his glasses during practices and games. On sunny days he can wear sunglasses over his contacts when he’s on the field — important for protecting eyes and skin from sun damage. And for children who are severely nearsighted, contact lenses often correct vision better than eyeglasses.
Maturity before age
Despite these pros, the FDA, AAO and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urge parents to consider how mature a child is before giving the green light to contacts. For example, how well does he handle other responsibilities. Is his room always a mess? Do you have to nag him to do homework? It might be best to wait for contacts if so.
Personal hygiene habits are especially key, according to the FDA. A child who has to be reminded after every bathroom visit to wash his hands, for example, isn’t likely to take good care of contact lenses.
In fact, a quarter of kids who show up in the ER each year for injuries or complications related to medical devises (around 13,500 children) have problems related to contact lenses, a 2010 study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found. Many of them were infections and abrasions caused by poor hygiene.
According to the FDA, “kids find all sorts of ways to be less than hygienic. Common, dangerous behaviors include wearing another child’s lens; using saliva to moisten a lens; and wearing decorative lenses purchased from flea markets, beauty supply stores, the Internet and other sources.”
Contact care basics
If you think your child is up to the challenge — and you're ready to share the responsibility of contact lens care, adds the AAP — then contact lens are worth a shot. Just don't let your child toss his old-fashioned specs.
You'll need to teach your child proper lens care, which includes these do's and don'ts from the FDA:
- Wash hands before cleaning or inserting lenses. Use a clean, lint-free cloth to dry them.
- Follow the eye doctor’s instructions for rubbing, rinsing, cleaning and disinfecting lenses to the letter. Only use products and solutions he or she recommends.
- Don’t use any kind of water on lenses. Never spit on them to moisten them.
- Don’t wear lenses for longer than the doctor says to. Don’t sleep in lenses not prescribed to be worn this way.
- Never wear someone else’s lenses.
- When playing sports, wear safety goggles or glasses over lenses.
- Always have a pair of back-up glasses handy.
- If an eye is red or irritated, do not put a contact lens into it. If an eye is itchy, burns or feels irritated, take lenses out.
- Put makeup on after inserting lenses. Take them out before removing makeup.
- Never swim with contacts in.