This is the third installment in my Children’s Healthcare Series. I am a nurse by training and a mom to three boys. This advice is purely 100% my own experience and opinion; it does not replace the advice of a healthcare or eye care professional. This is based on my own experience as a mom. Please see my disclaimer page.
Is your child old enough for contact lenses? How do you know when your child is ready for contacts?
I have two sons who started wearing glasses in elementary school. Neither of them wanted to start wearing glasses, but they needed to wear them. One of my boys started to wear glasses in third grade and the other in fourth grade. Both play sports which made wearing glasses more cumbersome, especially when wearing a football helmet. One option is to opt for sports glasses or if you feel your child is up for it and interested, consider contacts. My kids both chose to try contacts.
There are several things to consider when deciding if contacts are right for your child. We spoke with our Pediatric Optometrist to determine if this was going to be a good fit for our kids before making the decision to proceed. There were several aspects we considered before we added contacts to each our child’s eye care regime. Here is a list of things to think about when considering getting contacts for your child.
Will your child willingly touch his eye?
Some kids are squeamish and don’t want to touch their eye. This might scare them or they might think it’s gross. Talk with your child to see if this is something they think they can do because they will be the one putting in and taking out the contacts. Both of my boys decided they were willing to get used to this because they both really wanted to try wearing contacts. However, both were fearful of touching their eyes at first. They quickly got over this fear.
Is your child mature enough to handle the responsibilities of wearing contacts?
Consider if your child is able to commit to only putting in and taking out the contacts after washing their hands with soap and water. Washing their hands every single time will be necessary to prevent eye infection from occurring. Think about whether your child will be able to remember to replace the solution in the case every day to clean and disinfect the contacts. Another aspect to consider is if your child will be able to ensure they get their contacts into the case each night and not leave one on the counter to dry out.
Can your child follow directions?
Before we ordered the contacts, we assessed if our kids were each able to follow the directions of putting in and removing the contacts on their own accord. Our eye clinic required the kids to be able to insert and take out the contacts a certain number of times as a part of their evaluation. They wanted to see the kids have success with the procedure of insertion and removal all on their own. It is a skill they must master in order to wear contacts and they must remember the steps. The child must be physically able to hold their eye open by the eyelashes with one hand, and insert the contact onto their eye with a finger on their other hand (there may be other techniques, talk with your optometrist).
Consider if your child will be able to remember the steps for the care of contact lenses for disinfection.
Will you have time to allow for insertion of contacts in the morning?
Inserting contact lenses is an added step to the morning that requires more time. Make sure you are able to add this to the morning regime your child currently follows in getting ready each morning. Allow extra time initially until your child becomes quick at putting them in. I found I needed to allow time for difficulties and frustration in the first few weeks of them wearing contacts. They also needed reminders at times to put their contacts in.
Do you have experience wearing contacts to guide and oversee your child?
If you don’t wear contacts yourself, you will have to consider your own learning curve in the addition of contact lenses to your child’s eye care. I’ve worn contacts for many years so I felt confident to guide and oversee my children in their use of contact lenses. As a parent you will have to set aside time for new things to learn about contact lenses care if you have never worn them yourself. As mamas, we can handle this, we learn new things as parents all the time. Just give yourself some time.
Which type of contacts to purchase?
This will be driven by a conversation with your eye care professional. We chose to start with the monthly contacts for both of my boys where you start a new pair every two-four weeks. They are a little bit thicker and therefore easier to put in because they fold less. Using the monthly contact lenses also requires buying bottles of solution which is an added expense to consider. The monthly contacts are still working for my ten-year old son.
However, my older son had to switch to the daily disposable contact lenses. He developed an allergy to the monthly contacts and we were forced to switch him to the daily use disposable contacts. The daily contacts are working great for him now.
The decision is one best tailored to your specific family circumstance and should be discussed with your optometrist. I have experience with both monthly and daily contacts for my own personal eye care. I like the convenience of the daily disposable contacts, but they are thinner and more difficult to put in. They are also more expensive. My own experience guided my decision to start both of my boys in the monthly contacts.
Will your child still wear glasses?
I suggest keeping glasses as a back-up. Our Pediatric Optometrist gave us this advice also. Each of my kids are going about their contact wearing in a different way. My oldest wears contact lenses every day and never uses his glasses. My other son wears contact lenses some day and his glasses other days. Eventually you will see what works best for your child.
Watch for signs of infection.
Infections can happen especially for children around other kids like in a school setting. Both of my boys have had pink eye infections while wearing contacts. Always call your doctor about signs of an eye infection and follow their doctor’s advice for eye infection treatment. When wearing contacts and an eye infection occurs, our doctor has prescribed a specific antibiotic drop for my kids because of the fact that they wear contacts. Redness or pus are a both signs to get your child evaluated as is any type of irritation or discomfort. The doctor advised my boys to wear glasses while on the antibiotic drops so this is another reason to have glasses as a back-up for your child.
Other tips and advice:
I tell my kids to belly up to a counter so that in case they drop the contact lense it will fall on the counter rather than the floor. Contact lenses are harder to find on the floor plus it could get stepped on and ripped easily when on the floor. If the contact hurts, take it out and rinse it. A hair or dirt on the contact while it’s on the eye is very painful. A tear or tiny rip in the contact lense is also very painful so inspect the contact for tears if it is causing pain. I also bring an extra pair of lenses for my kids when they play in their sports games in case they lose one during the game. I keep an extra pair of lenses in my purse for just in case they need a replacement.
My experience with kids wearing contact lenses has been successful. We have encountered infection issues and an allergy issue, but with the help of our optometrist and pediatrician we worked through these problems. Wearing contact lenses makes playing sports easier for my children and it is the scenario they prefer. It is a big parenting decision that requires consultation with your eye care professional. My boys are both very happy with their choice to wear contacts, and that makes me a happy mama. Good luck in your journey to finding out what is right for your child and your family.
Julie, Nurse Mom