Kids can wear contact lenses in the same way that adults can, and in almost every case, can help on more levels than just their vision! The first group of kids that we’re likely to recommend contact lenses for are young myopes or shortsighted children. When you’re a kid it’s your fastest period of change or progression of shortsightedness, so one of the options of stopping or slowing short-sightedness progression is with contact lenses.
Contact Lens Options
There are a couple of options in the world of contact lenses. You’ve got the hard contact lenses, orthokeratology lenses, those are the lenses you sleep in overnight and they change the shape of your eye so that your vision is good for the next day. Then there are also soft contact lenses as well, that are specially designed to help slow the progression of myopia. Historically, daily soft contact lenses weren’t available in a full range of prescriptions, but nowadays you can get a daily disposable lens, which is a fresh and sterile lens, straight out of the packet and it comes in a full range of prescriptions, so suitable for kids of any ages. Another main category of kids that would be interested in contact lenses at the moment, is kids who wear glasses full time, but find it really difficult to play sport in their glasses. School age children are in the prime time for fitting kids in contact lenses for weekend sports because they just can’t see without their glasses on, but the practicalities of wearing glasses and running around a soccer field is not always very practical.
Parent Concerns around Contact Lens Wear
Often, parents get a little bit concerned that perhaps kids aren’t the best candidates for contact lenses. Maybe that’d be because they’ve tried to wear them before and haven’t had much success or they’ve noticed that they’re uncomfortable or that it’s just not that common. It turns out that kids tend to be better wearers of contact lenses than adults! They’re better at getting them in and taking them out, they’re faster learners because their brains are built for soaking in new information and new skills, so they tend to be actually better contact lens wearers than adults. Another concern is that perhaps kids generally aren’t as concerned with hygiene, and that can be a bit of concern when wearing a contact lens that stays on your eye. The science actually says the opposite, that kids tend to be less likely to get contact lens-related infections than adults do. I think it’s probably because there’s a few people looking after their contact lenses and their contact lens wear, and there’s a few extra voices reminding them to wash their hands before handling their contact lenses.
Rules of thumb for kids
We have made the decision that we wouldn’t put an age limit on when children can wear contacts as it really doesn’t depend on the age of the kid, it depends on the maturity of each child, their motivation, how much parent help and parent encouragement they’ve got. Tips for contact lens wearers are basically, it’s all about hand hygiene. It’s making sure that your hands are sparkly clean when you put the lenses in, that they don’t come into contact with tap water. Tap water’s really big in the field of contact lenses at the moment, because there’s a little germ that lives in tap water called acanthamoeba and the chances of getting an eye infection caused by acanthamoeba is very, very, very rare, but it’s very, very nasty if ever it happens. So a good rule of thumb to avoid tap water with any contact lens irrespective of whether you are a child or adult, or wear a soft, hard or ortho-K lens. Another tip we commonly say to patients is that I don’t want you to pop your contact lenses in if your eyes don’t look good, feel good and see good. So if your eyes are itchy, sore, sandy, scratchy, having a bad day, your allergies are playing up, your nose is a bit sniffly, you feel like you’ve got some germs or a bit of a cold, please no, no, no to contact lenses.