How Old Is "Old Enough" for Contacts?

Is your child ready to wear contact lenses? How old is "old enough"?

These are among the questions asked most often when it comes to contact lenses, says the Contact Lens Council, a nonprofit organization.

There are no set rules with children and lenses. Much depends on how responsible your child is. Children as young as 8 may do well with contact lenses. But there are some older teens who may be too immature to handle the responsibility. Eye care providers often won't recommend contact lenses for children younger than 12. That's because the risks usually outweigh the benefits in younger children.

Some of the benefits of contact lenses include better side (peripheral) vision for sports or driving if your child is old enough to drive. In some cases contacts can improve quality of vision compared with eyeglasses. Studies have also shown improvement in a child's self-perception when wearing contact lenses instead of glasses. 

Contact lenses have their benefits. But your child may not be ready for the added responsibility of contact lenses. According to a 2010 study, about ¼ of all emergency room visits because of injuries or complications from medical devices are related to contact lenses. The problem is usually because of poor hygiene. Always have your child follow the eye care provider's advice on proper contact lens hygiene. Some basic rules to have your child follow may include:

  • Wash your hands before cleaning or putting in lenses.

  • Clean and rinse your contact lenses as directed. Only use products recommended by the eye care provider.

  • Never put your lenses in water or saliva.

  • Don't wear lenses for longer than prescribed.

  • Never wear someone else's lenses.

  • Never put contact lenses into a red eye.

  • Remove contact lenses if the eyes are itching, burning, or red and irritated. Call your eye care provider.

  • Don't sleep with contact lenses unless they are specifically approved for overnight use.

Daily disposable lenses are more expensive. But they can reduce some of the risks that come with wearing contact lenses.

?In certain cases, very young children and even infants may need contact lenses. In these cases, it is the responsibility of the parents or other caregivers to manage the placement and care of the lenses.

??Experts say that it's important to have an eye care professional judge what kind of vision correction a child needs in the way of vision correction. Also, the child's abilities and maturity level must be taken into account when considering contacts. Personal wear and care routines may depend on the type of contact prescribed, the type of vision problem being corrected, and the child’s eye chemistry.

Contact lens care is now easier and more convenient than ever before, for all types of lenses. Wearing contacts has become a possibility for many children. Basic lens care includes cleaning, rinsing, disinfecting, and storing with a special solution. This solution will keep lenses clean, comfortable, and free of bacteria. Both parents and children should follow the exact instructions given to them by their eye care professional.