Do you have a child with a diagnosed refractive error? Are you wondering if they can wear contact lenses?
Yes, your child can wear contact lenses. There is no minimum age requirement for wearing contact lenses. However, the question isn’t if your child can wear contact lenses. You should be asking yourself whether or not wearing contact lenses is appropriate for your child.
Should my child wear contact lenses?
An estimated 45 million Americans wear contact lenses. Approximately 8% of these Americans are under 18 years old, which means that around 3.6 million American children wear contact lenses. Therefore, it’s pretty common for children to wear contact lenses.
If you’re thinking about having your child wear contact lenses, here are three factors you should consider.
- Your child’s safety
Contact lenses are FDA-approved for wear for both adults and children. Children’s eyes can tolerate contact lenses without issues. In some cases, eye care professionals (ECPs) fit infants with contact lenses. Infants may need contact lenses to correct vision issues after they’ve had surgery to remove congenital cataracts.
There’s no doubt that contact lenses can be safe for children and even infants. However, having children wear contact lenses still poses some risks—just like when adults wear contact lenses.
Children like to play around outside and run around with other kids. Outdoor play can kick up dirt, dust, and bacteria and accumulate on your child’s contact lenses, which can damage the contact lenses, hurt your child’s eyes, and cause an eye infection.
Other child behaviors can also affect contact lens wear. Your child may rub or scratch at their eyes with unwashed hands, potentially transferring infection-causing bacteria to their eyes.
Playing outside, constant eye rubbing or scratching, and other behaviors are typical in children, and you can’t wholly control these behaviors. After all, you can’t be with your child 24/7 to guide and remind them about proper contact lens wear.
To ensure the health and safety of your child when wearing contact lenses, talk to your child and make sure they understand the dangers and risks of contact lens wear. If you are still worried about your child wearing contact lenses, then maybe contact lenses aren’t the best option for them.
Eye care practitioners who specialize in children’s needs can provide the best guidance for parents trying to make the right decision.
- Your child’s sense of responsibility
Wearing contact lenses is a big responsibility, and even adults find the duties involved too difficult. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be any cases of severe eye infections brought on by improper contact lens wear and care. According to the CDC, at least 40% of contact lens wearers don’t follow proper contact lens wear and care procedures.
If adults struggle with proper contact lens care, it’s only logical to assume that children will also struggle with the responsibility.
To determine whether or not your child can handle the responsibilities that come with wearing contact lenses, consider their behavior at home and ask yourself the following questions:
- Can your child follow specific instructions strictly?
- Is your child responsible at home (i.e., complete household chores without prompting)?
- Does your child do their schoolwork on time?
- Does your child practice good hygiene without constant reminders? (ex. brushing their teeth, washing hands)
If the answer to all these questions is yes, then your child can likely handle the responsibilities of wearing and caring for contact lenses.
- Your child’s needs
Does your child need contact lenses? If an ECP recommends that your child wear contact lenses, it’s likely because contact lenses are the ideal vision correction option for your child.
Perhaps your child wants to wear contact lenses to engage in more sports in school. In such an instance, your child may not strictly need contact lenses. However, since athletics is a significant part of education and being active in sports has plenty of substantial benefits for children, wearing contact lenses is in their best interests.
On the other hand, maybe your child wants to wear contact lenses because they don’t want to wear glasses. Contact lenses may not be necessary if this is the case, especially if your child only has a mild refractive error.
This case leads to parents and children struggling over self-esteem issues and the role of contact lenses vs. eyeglasses. While eyeglasses are considered a fashion statement by many, many young people especially teens may have a different opinion. Advice: tread lightly.
There’s no minimum age requirement for contact lenses, and it’s safe for children to wear contact lenses. Contact lenses are only dangerous if they’re worn or cared for improperly, regardless of the wearer’s age. You should still carefully consider if contact lenses are indeed the best option your child has for vision correction.