Are Contact Lenses Right for Your Kid?

What You Should Ask Your Optometrist

If you are a parent of a child with vision problems, perhaps one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make is when to allow them to begin using contact lenses.  As a high school employee, I often notice that many teens refuse to wear their glasses.  Typically, they just say that they “forgot” to bring them to school.  However, I suspect that the real reason is that they are simply shy and embarrassed to be seen in glasses by their peers.  Some of the boys seem to believe that glasses affect their “masculine” self-image; many of the girls feel less attractive in glasses.  One solution is to purchase contact lenses for children rather than continuing to purchase glasses.  In some cases, contact lenses will help a child who is self-conscious feel more comfortable with their appearance.  This, in turn, can have a positive affect on their self-esteem.  However, before you promise to purchase contact lenses for your child, there are many issues that you need to consider.

Parent and ChildCredit:

Ask your Eye Doctor for a Thorough Eye Exam

Your first step in the process is, of course, to discuss it with your optometrist, the eye doctor who tests for defects in vision and prescribes glasses or contact lenses.  Ask if they feel that this type of vision correction is an appropriate treatment for your child’s vision problems.  If so, find out at what age they recommend contacts for kids.  When do they believe a child is mature enough to be responsible with them?  Discuss your kid's sports activities, the amount of time they spend reading, and any other lifestyle factors that may influence their ability to wear lenses.  Some doctors believe that children as young as 8 years old (or even younger) can successfully wear them.  However, don’t make promises to your child until discussing it with the eye doctor, first. 

Consider the Cost

Depending on the type of lenses your child will need, the costs can vary widely.  You may have to take that into consideration when deciding if you are prepared to purchase them for kids.  In general, contacts will cost more than glasses.  In addition, you may also have to purchase special solutions and eye drops.  Is this an expense you are able to handle, or will the cost cause stress between you and your child?  Your child will almost certainly lose a contact lens from time to time.  Take this expense into consideration, as well. 

Can The Child Take Care of Their Lenses?

If you do decide to purchase contact lenses for your child, it is important that they are mature enough to handle them correctly.  Even if you choose to purchase daily use lenses, that are thrown away each evening, your child still needs to have clean hands each time they insert a new pair.  However, because they are more affordable, in most cases you will want to purchase contact lenses that are reused for at least a couple of weeks.  Do you feel confident that your child will keep reusable lenses clean and insert them carefully?  If you do purchase reusable contact lenses, it is also important that your child change the lens solution every day.  Keeping the lenses clean will prevent many problems, including most common causes of eye infection.  Practicing good hygiene will also go a long way towards insuring that your child has the most comfortable fit possible.

Self-Esteem and Eye Wear

One factor to consider when deciding when to buy contact lenses for kids, is the affect it will have on their self-esteem.  One of our own daughters was very shy and self-conscious about the glasses she began wearing in the second grade.  In the fourth grade, we converted her to contact lenses.  She loved the switch!  Even today, as a mother herself, she rarely wears her glasses unless she is at home.  She virtually always wears contact lenses in public.  With children, of course, the final decision has to be made in conjunction with your doctor.  Only your optometrist can decide when it is the right time to begin using them for your kids.

Caring for Contact Lenses

Whether the child is 8 or 18 there are a few things you should know about taking care of your contact lenses.  Your optometrist will give you complete instructions for taking care of the type of lenses you have purchased for your child.  They will probably have your child practice inserting the lenses and taking them out while you are still in the office.  Make sure your child follows those instructions carefully.  If, despite your care, your child begins to have problems wearing the lenses, or their eyes appear red and itchy, contact the doctor as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of eye infections which, although rare, can be very serious.

What should you do if you child drops a contact lens on the carpet?  First, you should try to find the lens as soon as possible.  Once it dries out, it will no longer be usable.  Sometimes you can simply put your face down close to the carpet and look over the surface.  The contact lens will frequently be very visible, since it usually will be sitting on top of the carpet.  However, if this doesn’t work, you can also try placing panty hose over the outside of a hand-held vacuum, or over the nozzle attachment to a larger vacuum.  Firmly attach the panty hose with a rubber band.  Gently move the vacuum over the carpet, holding it about an inch off the surface.  Look at the nylon frequently to see if the contact lens has been sucked up and is clinging to the panty hose.  You may have to pause and clean the surface of the panty hose periodically, since other particles will be picked up, as well.  However, this method will usually help you quickly locate a dropped contact lens.  After finding it, be certain that it is cleaned thoroughly before your child puts it back in their eyes.  If it has been scratched or torn, it will have to be discarded.

If you are interested in reading other articles dealing with health and safety concerns in children and teens, you may want to read the articles listed below:

Preventing Death and Injury in Children

Teach Your Children Safety Around Electricity

Halloween Safety Tips for Kids

Safe Use of Face Paint on Halloween

Food Safety Tips for School Lunches

This Book Has Great Suggestion for Self-Esteem in Kids