Eyewear for children

Glasses for children

There are a few possible indicators that your child may need glasses. This could begin with a note from the teacher discussing difficulties in school, or you may notice your child squinting or having frequent headaches. However, it is more likely you will learn your child needs glasses when you take them to an optometrist for a routine eye exam, even though there have been no indicators at all. 

When choosing their first pair of glasses, start by ensuring that your child likes the style and colour of the frames that are being selected. A child will be more inclined to wear their glasses every day when they are happy with their appearance. For a child to keep their new glasses on, the frames do need to provide a comfortable fit. For this reason the frame sizing and selection needs careful attention by an experienced fitter. Children often have small, flat bridges of their nose and since much of the weight of the frame is carried at that point, certain types of frames, often with adjustable nose pads, will be recommended. Children’s skin can be sensitive and large areas of frame contact should be avoided particularly if they have metal sensitivities. Also, your child will need a frame of good quality and one that is backed by a manufacturer’s warranty because it is inevitable that the frame will become bent, crooked or break. 

The first priority of lens selection is safety. Lens materials such as polycarbonate and Trivex carry significant impact resistant qualities in addition to providing UV protection. Your child’s prescription may necessitate lens features such as aspheric surfaces or high index materials to keep them thin and light. 
All lenses should be provided with a very good quality scratch resistant coating and in some cases anti-reflection coatings, although the latter will require frequent cleaning to ensure the maximum benefit and are more of a necessity as the child gets older or the prescription increases. Another consideration is transition lenses, which provide UV protection and darken when your child is outdoors. These lenses are beneficial for children who are prescribed glasses for full-time wear.

The delivery of the new glasses is an exciting time for your child. Make sure that they are fitted well. The frame should be level and properly positioned. They should not slip out of position with head movements and there should not be noticeable red marks on the nose or behind the ears after a few hours of wear. Your child will be excited to receive them so use this time to impress upon them the doctor’s wearing instructions. Also, build good care habits such as showing them how to use both hands to remove them and how to set them down properly, lens-side up. 

Many coatings have specific cleaning instructions or products that you should receive from the fitter. You may allow your child to personalize their eyeglass case. There is usually an adaptation period for any new pair of glasses. Initially, your child may resist wearing the glasses as he or she may feel that their vision is not clear or things look a little funny. With continued wear of the glasses, as directed by your doctor of optometry, these symptoms should resolve. However, any problems that persist beyond two weeks should be reported to your optometrist. To encourage your child to wear his or her glasses, make it a part of their daily routine. Also, remember to make your child’s teacher aware of the wearing schedule of the glasses.   

For children in junior kindergarten, the Ontario Association of Optometrists’ Eye See…Eye Learn® program offers one complimentary pair of glasses to children who need them, following their annual OHIP-covered eye exam. Learn more at www.EyeSeeEyeLearn.ca.


Contact lenses for children

When deciding on the best type of vision correction for your child, you have options to consider. In most cases, glasses would be the first choice and these would be worn according to the recommendation of the eye care professional that prescribed them. However, does your child find that wearing their glasses during sports or dance is an inconvenience? Are your child’s glasses always dirty, crooked and broken? Is it a nuisance when their glasses steam up when they come into the house from the cold weather? Does your child want to wear sunglasses in the summer months or perhaps goggles for winter sports? If your child has trouble adapting to their new world with glasses, you may start to consider contact lenses. 

It has been shown that children younger than 12 years of age report better vision-related quality of life when wearing contact lenses compared to glasses. Some assume children are too young for contact lenses. 

Here are some truths about contact lenses for children: 

Fiction: The prescription should be stable before a child can be fit with contact lenses. 
Fact: The prescription does not need to be stable prior to fitting children with contact lenses. Indeed, in most cases, the prescription continues to change as a child grows. Most children are fit with disposable (or planned replacement) soft lenses, which are replaced every day. When the prescription changes, the next order of contact lenses can be adjusted to reflect the new prescription.   

Fiction: Contact lenses are expensive. 
Fact: Contact lenses may be no more expensive than glasses in the long term. As previously mentioned, changes in the prescription can be accommodated easily with contact lens wear. Changes in the prescription for glasses require a new set of glasses lenses each time. In the hands of children, glasses may become damaged in a very short period of time and require regular repairs or replacement. Scratched lenses may need to be replaced regularly, incurring significant costs each time.   

Fiction: If I have contact lenses, I don’t need glasses. 
Fact: Contact lenses do not replace glasses for all activities, such as school science labs. Contacts cannot be worn by teens more than approximately 12 hours per day and should not be worn if you are sick or have an eye infection or eye injury.  

Fiction: Children can’t handle contact lenses. 
Fact: It has been shown that children as young as eight can successfully handle contact lenses. With appropriate instruction, most children can put contact lenses in their eyes and remove them easily. A recent study indicated that the average time to instruct a child on how to handle contact lenses is about 30 minutes, which is similar to the time it takes to instruct an adult. 

Fiction: My child is too young for contact lenses.
Fact: Children of any age can be fit with contact lenses. In fact, babies as young as a few weeks old can be fit with contact lenses to promote better visual development after, for example, cataract surgery. Children as young as eight years old can be very successful contact lens wearers. A conversation between the child, the parent and your optometrist is helpful in determining if your child is prepared to take on the responsibility of contact lenses.

Fiction: Children are more prone to complications related to contact lens wear than adults. 
Fact: Contact lens complications are no more prevalent in children than in adults. If the parents and children adhere to the instructions they have been given regarding, wearing time, replacing the lenses regularly and using the solution regimens appropriately, then the risks of contact lens wear are significantly minimized.   

Fiction: Children can’t look after contact lenses. 
Fact: Caring for contact lenses is relatively simple and children are just as capable at looking after their contact lenses as an adult. If there is a concern about compliance with contact lens care products you should discuss the option of daily disposable contact lenses for your child with your optometrist to eliminate the requirement for using contact lens solutions. It is important to realize that not all children (or adults) are suitable for contact lens wear. Some more complicated prescriptions can pose a challenge when it comes to fitting contact lenses and some people just do not seem to be able to tolerate wearing contact lenses. Your optometrist will be able to use a variety of diagnostic lenses to find the right one for your child and if after the trial your child is deemed to not be a suitable candidate at that time, you will be advised accordingly.