It is now quite common for children of around seven or eight years old, or even younger, to start wearing contact lenses part-time – giving them freedom from glasses to enjoy activities such as horse riding, dancing, rugby or football to the fullest and often improving their confidence.
Daily disposable contact lenses are ideal as they are really comfortable and it’s reassuring to know that a fresh, sterile pair will be used every time. They are made from a smooth, soft gel that allows the surface of the eye to breathe and some even have a UV filter for extra protection.
Are contact lenses safe for children?
Children are very adaptable and are quick learners when it comes to handling the lenses, as long as they are motivated.
We find the best way for them to find out if they are interested is to book an appointment at your local opticians to get the child’s eyes tested. This way they can let the optometrist gently place some lenses of the correct prescription onto their eyes and then go away for an hour or two (or more) to let them experience what it is like to see without glasses.
During that time, they will probably forget at times that they are even wearing them, so it is a great motivation and confidence booster. Later in the day your optometrist will recheck the fit and vision and remove the lenses for them. If all has gone well then a further fitting appointment may be needed, and of course, we will need to spend time giving them thorough training in safe, hygienic handling of contact lenses. It goes without saying that whilst children can usually manage their contact lenses very well, supervision from parents is required to ensure that their eyes are kept safe and healthy.
Once they are confident and safe in placing and removing the contacts we allow them to take a week’s supply home to try wearing them, then the optometrist will want to see them for a return visit wearing the lenses to check that the eyes are healthy and can cope with contact lens wear. There’s no obligation to go ahead, but following this return visit suitable contact lenses can be purchased and a regular pattern of aftercare will be established to monitor the eyes. The pattern of wear will evolve in these first weeks as they discover when they most like to wear their contact lenses.
Daily disposable lenses work out at around £1 a pair, and can be purchased “pay as you go” or on a direct debit arrangement to cover aftercare as well as a regular supply of contacts.
Many people worry about the risks of eye infection with children and contact lens wear, but whilst there will always be a very small risk of contact lens-related serious eye infections, these are quite rare and in fact, research shows less incidence in children. Possibly because they are more likely to follow the instructions we give than adults! The benefits of contact lenses have to be weighed against any risk, just like parents do every day for many situations.