Yes, contacts are safe for children. The human eye can tolerate contact lenses at a very young age. In special cases, even babies are equipped with contacts to overcome eye conditions such as congenital nystagmus.
An important factor in determining whether contact lenses are safe for your child is to evaluate how willing he or she is to wear contacts in a responsible manner and to take good care of them.
Wearing contact lenses, especially sleeping while wearing contact lenses designed for daytime use only, can significantly increase the risk of eye lens-related problems.
Your child must also demonstrate the ability to apply and remove the lenses without significant problems and to clean and disinfect the lenses after each use with suitable contact lens solutions.
Often the success of a child in wearing contacts depends on how motivated he or she is to wear them. Even if you wear contact lenses yourself, do not assume that your child wants to wear contacts. Some children are very happy to wear glasses and may not be interested in contacts until they are young adults, or not at all.
At what age are contacts safe for children to wear?
Many parents wonder when it is safe for their child to start wearing contacts. A study called the Contact Lenses in Pediatrics (CLIP) study conducted in 2008 showed that children from 8 years of age are able to correctly insert, remove and care for contact lenses and had no increased risk of eye lens-related eye problems compared with teenagers who participated in the study.
In addition, 83 percent of children aged 8 to 12 said in the CLIP study that contact lenses were easy to care for and 92 percent chose to stay in contact at the end of the study.
Results from another study suggest that contact lenses can have an additional benefit for young children - they can increase self-confidence.
A total of 484 children between the ages of 8 and 11 participated in the Child Health Initiative to Encourage Vision Empowerment (ACHIEVE) study and were randomly assigned to wear glasses or contact lenses for a three-year period. The study was conducted between September 2003 and October 2007 in five clinical centers in the United States.
At the end of the study period, all children completed questionnaires that assessed their self-perception in a number of areas. The results suggested that children's self-perception of their physical appearance, athletic competence, and social acceptance is likely to improve with contact lenses.
Proponents of contact lenses for children also point out that children who wear contact lenses that block the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays may have considerably lower lifelong exposure to UV radiation, accompanied by eye problems such as cataract and macular degeneration. Wearing contact lenses at a young age can therefore help prevent certain eye problems at a later age.