If your child currently wears glasses, there is no doubt that at some point they will be curious about wearing contact lenses. After all, kids grow up so fast these days. You may remember your first encounter with contact lenses and think that you were much older when your parents allowed you this rite of passage into your teenage years. Let’s face it, children do things at much younger ages than their parents remember being granted these privileges. Understanding why your child wants to wear contacts will help you know if your child is ready for this big change. Kids want contact lenses for all kinds of reasons ranging from self-consciousness to improving visual acuity for better academic and sports performance. How do you know if your child is ready for contact lenses? As an eye care professional with years of prescribing contact lenses to children, I offer these tips for how to decide if the time is right.
Establish If Your Child is Ready for the Responsibility of Contact Lenses
Wearing contact lenses requires a level of responsibility more advanced than wearing glasses. You need to trust that your child is motivated to practice the hygiene necessary for the safe use of contact lenses. If your eye care professional recommends a lens to be worn for more than a single day, the ability to keep lenses disinfected is critical to the safe use of contact lenses. Similarly, how careful is your child with items that if lost, would be expensive or inconvenient to replace? A child who is careful with their cell phone or orthodontic retainer may be a good candidate for contact lenses.
Daily disposable contact lenses are a great choice for active kids as they are a convenient and healthy option. Your child will get a fresh, new pair of contact lenses every day with no cleaning, storage or maintenance. Using a daily disposable contact lens does still require attention to clean hands before insertion or removal. If you constantly have to remind your child to brush their teeth or wash their hands, they may not yet be ready for the added responsibility of contact lenses. On the other hand, if they are highly motivated to wear contact lenses, you may be able to get them to improve their hygiene as motivation to have you consider contact lenses.
Consult with Your Eye Care Professional
Many eye care professionals like to wait until early adolescence to recommend contact lenses for kids to ensure that the child is capable of taking proper care of the lenses, however all the recent studies have shown that even younger kids are capable of successful contact lens wear. Your eye care professional can help you determine how well your child may adjust to contact lenses and counsel you on how best to proceed.
Consider the Academic and Social Benefits
Contacts allow some freedom from glasses, especially if your child is very involved in sports. Contacts can give your child the clear vision they need to compete while also giving them the confidence to succeed. In many cases, children forego their glasses during sports to avoid losing or damaging them or to eliminate the condensation that comes from wearing sports goggles when they sweat.
Importantly, studies conducted at the University of Houston College of Optometry, the New England College of Optometry and the Ohio State College of Optometry, revealed that 68% of tweens and 65% of teens reported improved levels of performance in all activities after wearing contact lenses1.
How to Find the Right Contact Lenses
There are many different kinds of contacts available to treat different vision issues. Identifying your child’s vision needs with support from your eye care professional, is important to ensuring optimal comfort and performance. In a recent study, parents were given the opportunity to choose between daily disposables and 2-week lenses for their kids. The parents selected daily disposables 93% of the time 2.
A daily disposable lens will help ease the transition into contacts for your child. One daily disposable lens I frequently prescribe to youngsters is SofLens daily disposables from Bausch + Lomb, a stand-alone eye health company that has continuously created products to address evolving patient needs for the past 158 years. I like SofLens daily disposable lenses because they are affordable, do not require cleaning or storage, and allow kids to pursue sports, arts and academics with a fresh clean lens every day. Unlike other disposable lenses, SofLens Daily Disposables have High Definition Optics™ that provide your child with clear, crisp vision.
Remember to Be Supportive
Now that you’ve identified the right lenses for your child and spoken with your family eye care professional, it’s finally time for your child to test them out!
At first, your child may have some difficulty inserting their new lenses. Just remember to be patient and supportive. After a few weeks, they should become fully adjusted to them and enjoy the benefits of their new contacts.
1 Contact Lenses in Pediatrics (CLIP) Study: chair time and ocular health. Optom Vis Sci. 2007 Sep;84(9):896-902.
2 Rah MJ, Walline JJ. et al. for the ACHIEVE Study Group. Vision specific quality of life of pediatric contact lens wearers . Optom Vis Sci. 2010 Aug;87(8):560-6.
Dr. Toltz is a graduate of the New England College of Optometry in Boston, Massachusetts where she graduated with honors in 1982. Dr. Toltz completed internships in Jerusalem, Israel at Hadassah Hospital and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Toltz is a managing partner in a multi-office group practice in Denver Colorado where she has lived as an active member of the community for over twenty five years. As a speaker for Bausch + Lomb on various contact lens topics, Dr. Toltz has travelled the country and the United Kingdom speaking to groups of doctors.
Having served as a trustee of the Colorado Optometric Association, Dr. Toltz is an active member of the children’s vision committee and infant see provider. In addition she holds an alternative teaching license and has taught middle and high school students in science and math. Experience as a coach and judge in Destination Imagination rounds out her vast experience in teaching children creative problem solving. Dr. Toltz has two daughters who also share her enthusiasm for the sciences and her love of music.