Encourage good habits today to promote lifelong eye health
Whether your child is already wearing contact lenses or they’ve been begging you to ditch their glasses in favor of contacts, adopting good hygiene habits is critical. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 85 percent of adolescent contact lens wearers report habits that increase their risk for eye infection. The habits that increased the risk of eye infection include:
- Not visiting an eye doctor for their annual visit (44%)
- Sleeping or napping with contact lenses in their eyes (30%)
- Swimming with their contact lenses in (27%)
Serena Wang, M.D., Pediatric Ophthalmologist at Children’s Health℠ and Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at UT Southwestern, warns that an untreated contact lens-related infection can cause adolescents to lose their sight – or even the eye itself. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help your child be a healthier contact lens wearer.
Gauging your child’s readiness for lenses
If your child is interested in using contact lenses, start by assessing readiness and level of maturity to handle lenses. Is your child mature enough to follow care instructions associated with contact lenses? Does he or she have good hygiene habits, such as hand washing and teeth brushing? While an eye care professional can weigh in on this decision, Dr. Wang says, “Ultimately, parents know their child the best and they are the best people to decide if their child is ready for contact lenses.”
Getting started with contact lenses
If you and your family have decided your child is ready for lenses, you should visit a professional ophthalmologist or optometrist to have him or her fitted for lenses. “In general, soft daily wear contact lenses with high water and high oxygen content are better for children, but not everyone can use those lenses,” says Dr. Wang. However, more important than the type of lenses your child begins wearing, is your child’s commitment to following the safety and care guidelines provided with those lenses.
Dr. Wang provides important guidelines your young contact lens wearer should follow:
- Always wash your hands before touching your eyes or your lenses.
- Always remove your contact lenses before bed (even if they are designed for overnight wear).
- Always use contact solution to clean and store your contact lenses, and never use tap water.
- Always remove your contacts before swimming, especially in freshwater.
- Never use someone else’s contact lenses.
Protecting your child’s eye health
It happens – sometimes children don’t like to follow directions. If you are having trouble with your adolescent adhering to the care instructions for their contact lenses, Dr. Wang suggests setting stricter rules. “If your child doesn’t follow the rules, you don’t supply the contacts anymore. This shows how important it is that they follow the rules.”
A bacterial or fungal infection that develops due to improper contact lens wearing can have serious consequences, up to and including loss of vision and eye. Give your child the chance to change his or her behavior and care of the lenses, and supervise them closely to ensure they are following directions.
Ophthalmologists at Children’s Health are highly experienced in treating problems associated with contact lens use and other eye diseases, and can help you and your child get on the path to good eye health now and for years to come. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.