If you wonder whether your child is old enough to wear contact lenses, you might be asking the wrong question.
“It depends on the kid,” she said. “The child has to be responsible and clean, and has to want to do it. If a child has lost or broken their glasses 16 times, it doesn’t make them the most ideal candidate for contact lenses.”
About 10 percent of more than 30 million contact lens wearers in the United States are younger than 18, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Optometrists differ on age-appropriateness of fitting children for contacts, according to a survey by the American Optometric Association. About half said 10 to 12 is the right age to introduce kids to contacts. About a quarter said 13 to 14 is preferable, while some said it’s OK for kids under 8.
Casandra said she generally will start children ages 8-10 if they are responsible, and younger children – even babies – for medical reasons such as congenital cataracts.
“I think 8 to 10 is the youngest for routine contacts, as long as the parents think they are mature enough,” she said.
Kids often start wearing contacts for sport-related reasons, she said. Contacts provide better peripheral vision, and you don’t have to worry about them getting knocked off or broken.
“By middle school age, many kids usually want contact lenses. The cool thing, though, is glasses have come back. More kids want to wear them, especially the bigger frames.”
Casandra mostly recommends soft, disposable lenses for kids, and she prefers silicone hydrogel because they allow more oxygen to reach the cornea.
“Especially with kids, we want to go with the newer type of contact lens materials because they are healthier for the eye,” Casandra said.
- Contacts should be custom fitted by a professional. Without custom fitting you run a risk of infection and corneal ulcers.
- Don’t buy colored contacts at flea markets or other outlets. Never buy without a prescription. Off-the-shelf contacts can cause damage, and lead to vision loss.
- Likewise, tell your kids to never wear someone else’s contacts.
More than 13,000 kids a year go to emergency rooms because of injuries or complications from irresponsible use of contact lenses, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Pediatrics.
- Seasonal allergies can pose a problem, but they don’t preclude a child from wearing contacts. Antihistamines and allergy eye drops may be necessary.
- Your child should see an eye doctor for redness and pain that doesn’t go away when contacts are taken out.