This is a very common question and the answer is – it depends. Sometimes we will even recommend contacts in infants in certain medical situations. Some factors we consider when recommending contacts are a child’s responsibility level, their ability to care for contacts properly, and their desire, among other factors.
First we should discuss why this matters – it’s not just about them being able to put them in and take them out. Contact lenses are medical devices which, when used improperly, can lead to vision threatening conditions. A contact is a piece of plastic which can decrease the amount of oxygen going to the cornea and cause unhealthy blood vessel growth and scarring. We also normally have bacteria coming and going on our eyes, but our tears and blinking reflex are designed to wash them away so they don’t lead to infections. When wearing contacts, the bacteria can cling to the contacts and penetrate the cornea, infecting it and potentially leading to blindness. With proper contact lens wear and care, these complications are rare. Often we will recommend daily contact lenses in children. This is because they are healthier and easier to care for, reducing further the risk of complications. We also don’t recommend sleeping in contacts, even if the contacts are FDA approved to be slept in. This is because they still reduce the amount of oxygen going to the eye and, most importantly, this increases the risk of infection 15x!
Desire to wear contacts is also a big factor. At times parents will want their children to wear contacts for sports or for other reasons. If a child does not want to wear contacts, it is important to wait until they are ready because they will need to be the ones caring for them.
If you or your child are considering contacts, talk to myself, Dr. Schamber, or Dr. Orr during your child’s eye exam. We will discuss the options and why we do or do not recommend contacts at that time. If we all decide that contacts are a good option, we will schedule an appointment with our wonderfully trained staff to teach your child how to put in, take them out, and care for their lenses properly and we will evaluate the contact lenses on the child’s eye to ensure that they fit properly and that they are the best lenses for their eyes.
Thanks everyone for all of the great Vision Health Month questions. I had a lot of fun responding and interacting with everyone. If you have any more questions, never hesitate to ask, we are all more than happy to answer questions any time of the year. Be on the lookout for our next blog series and check out our new Instagram page for all of the newest, hottest frames!