Countless students find themselves excitedly anticipating their first pair of contact lenses when their parents and their eye care provider deem them mature enough to handle the responsibility. Toric contact lenses can cause for celebration for many young people with glasses. What many children might not realize, however, is the importance of caring for these small lenses all of the time. It is easy to think that as long as one cares for them well enough most of the time, it will be ok. Children might not realize how quickly bacteria can get introduced to their lenses and transported to their eye. Here are a few guidelines that parents and caregivers should enforce with children to help them take good care of their lenses and avoid eye infections and irritation.
Putting lenses in and taking them out
Remind children that they need to wash and dry their hands with a lint-free towel before they put in their lenses. Oils, dirt and bacteria that are on the hands can get into the lens and the eyes without this crucial step, potentially damaging the lenses and or causing an eye infection.
No matter how much contact lens solution might look like water, it is not. Drill into kids that water should not touch their lenses at any time. They should not use the water from the sink to ‘just rinse them out’ nor should they go swimming with the lenses. Water from the tap or a water bottle might be safe enough to drink, but it can still contain bacteria that would be dangerous for the eyes. Encourage children to carry a small bottle of their contact solution with them in a backpack or purse in case of an emergency. It is also a good idea for children to have an emergency pair of glasses with them should they ever need them, especially when at school.
As a part of keeping the lenses clean, patients should also always observe replacement guidelines put in place by their ophthalmologist. If the contacts are only supposed to be worn for a month, then they should be replaced in the recommended time frame. Do not allow children to ‘cheat’ in their lens care by reusing contact solution and make sure that the case itself is replaced every few months. One rule of thumb states that students should get a new lens case every quarter.
Maintaining eye health
Have a regular dialog with the child wearing the contact lenses to see how they are handling the responsibility. Ask children if they are experiencing any signs of eye irritation or infection, such as redness, pain or light sensitivity. It may seem easier for some younger wearers to ignore these symptoms in hopes that they will go away, but ignoring an infection could potentially lead to vision loss.
The value of good habits
When children are given contact lenses, they will also receive a talk about proper eye care and hygiene. Even with this lecture, however, more than 13,000 children end up in emergency rooms because of injuries and complications from contact lenses. Although many young people struggle with the different rules, their parents should work to enforce these guidelines. Good habits formed now can make an enormous difference in patient’s eye health as they age.
Eye care is an important part of responsible contact lens wearing. For younger patients who have been given their first pair of contact lenses, properly caring for these medical devices can be a challenge. The children and their parents should work together to make sure the wearer understands how to properly care for their lenses and the potential consequences of ignoring these guidelines. This can help prevent infections and other eye health problems.