When Can a Child Wear Contacts?

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

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

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

Contact lenses have their benefits. But your child may not be ready for the added responsibility. The problem is often because of poor hygiene. Always have your child follow the eye care provider's advice on correct contact lens hygiene. Some basic rules to have your child follow include:

  • Wash your hands before cleaning or putting in lenses.

  • Clean and rinse your contact lenses as directed. Only use products advised 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 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 some cases, very young children and even infants may need contact lenses. In these cases, parents or other caregivers must 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. Also, the child's abilities and maturity level must be taken into account when thinking about 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 keeps lenses clean, comfortable, and free of bacteria. Both parents and children should follow the exact instructions from the eye care professional.