With school back in session for the year, many of our kids are wondering if they can wear contacts instead of glasses. But how do you know when they are ready? Are contact lenses really safe for children to wear? Will they still need prescription glasses?
In today’s post, we’ll look at the safety of contact lenses for kids and teens, the kinds of contacts most appropriate for their age group, and some reasons why they shouldn’t give up on glasses for good.
Are Contacts Really Safe for Kids and Teens?
People of all ages wear contacts safely on a daily basis, and proper care and hygiene make them a safe vision correction choice for about 45 million people in the US alone, according to the CDC.
As strange as it sounds, sometimes younger is better, at least for forming healthy practices with a contact lens routine. One study published by the American Optometry Association concluded that young children may even be at a lower risk of complications from contact lenses than teens or even adults. The study suggested that greater parental involvement and better contact lens care habits kept kids in the 8-12 year age bracket less prone to infection than teens and adults (who, let’s be honest, might be more prone to showering or sleeping in their contact lenses).
Even though contact lenses are safe for nearly all ages when used properly, it’s important for your child to be examined by an optometrist specifically for the fit and prescription necessary for their contact lenses. Simply buying contacts online with your child or teen’s previous glasses prescription in hand won’t cut it; even a recent prescription for a lens that sits away from the eye won’t be the same for a lens that sits right on top of it.
When Can My Child Wear Contacts?
How young is too young for contact lenses? While contact lenses can be worn in some circumstances by nearly any age group, most children are not ready for the responsibility of contact lenses until after age 8.
However, the decision to try contacts should be made based on the child’s maturity level, not their age. The more responsible the child is regarding routines and hygiene, the more likely they will be able to handle a contact lens care routine without difficulty. Hygiene is probably the biggest barrier to transitioning kids from glasses to contacts, and meticulous hand washing and lens care is a must. For kids under the age of 8 who are still learning the importance of personal hygiene, sticking with glasses is probably for the best.
For 8 to 12 year olds, contact lenses can help provide safer participation in sports and improve their self-perception of their appearance. If your child is ready and motivated to stick to a contact lens care routine, then this age bracket is often the best time to give contact lenses a try.
For teens, the question of wearing contacts again centers on hygiene routines and maturity, but this age group is also highly motivated by appearance. Your teen may surprise you with their willingness to stick to a good care routine in order to have the option of contacts.
If you aren’t sure what a good care routine for contacts looks like or want advice on your child’s particular situation, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment! Whether it means sticking with their current glasses or starting a new contact lens care routine, our pediatric optometrists will work with you to develop a plan for your child’s best vision.
Which Contact Lenses Work Best for Kids and Teens?
Most children under 12 have the best daily wear experience with one-day disposable soft contacts. These contacts help reduce the risk of contamination in your child’s eyes from improperly disinfected lenses.
Older children and teens have the option of contacts that last longer, such as 2 week or 30 day disposable soft lenses and extended wear options. Rigid Gas Permeable Contacts (hard lenses) may also be prescribed for more complex vision issues, and the design of these lenses keeps the eye healthier by allowing more oxygen flow to the surface of the eye than soft lenses.
For children with myopia, some soft contacts can do more than just improve sight during wear; they can also slow the progression of your child’s myopia and reduce its long-term impact on their vision. At Uptown Eye Care, our pediatric optometrists provide myopia management for kids and teens through MiSight 1-day disposable contacts (for more information, read about our participation in CooperVision’s Brilliant Futures Program).
Don’t Skip the Glasses
If your child wants contact lenses, optometrists recommend that they get a prescription for glasses first. Caring for their first pair of glasses can help your child work towards the responsibility of owning and caring for contacts.
It’s never time to give up on glasses entirely, though, even after making the switch to contacts. We recommend having a pair of glasses available even if your child intends to wear contacts most of the time. Situations where contact lenses are not ideal (such as during a trip in the dry environment of an airplane cabin or during illness) are more manageable with a backup pair of glasses handy.
There’s No Time Like the Present for an Eye Exam
If you think your child is ready to make the switch to contacts, your next step is scheduling an eye exam for their contact lens prescription. And if they aren’t quite ready yet, we’re always happy to talk with your child about what they can do to keep their eyes healthy while they work towards their contact lens goals.
At Uptown Eye Care, our focus is on helping you and your child understand the proper care routine and products for their vision needs. Call us today to schedule an appointment!