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Parental guidance: Kids and cosmetic contacts

Kids and parents in variety of costumes walk

Kids and parents in variety of costumes walk during the 5th Annual Children's Halloween Costume Parade at Gerard St. in Huntington. (Oct. 31, 2008) Credit: Newsday/Ana P. Gutierrez

Is there any danger in letting my child wear over-the-counter decorative contact lenses as part of his Halloween costume?

Yes, says Dr. Steven Rubin, co-chief of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. Serious eye problems can be caused by over-the-counter lenses, he says.

It's actually been illegal to sell nonprescription cosmetic lenses in the United States since 2005. They are supposed to be sold through an eye-care professional (eye doctors, who have medical degrees, or optometrists) or with a prescription so that children, tweens or teens have been medically approved to use them and are trained in how to do it. But novelty contacts are still too easily available in some retail stores and on the Internet, Rubin says.

Websites often advertise decorative contacts as if they were fashion accessories or toys. But they can cause inflammation and pain, even corneal abrasions and infections that can lead to blindness if not used correctly, Rubin says.

"Part of the problem is that because the incidence is very low, many children will do this and not suffer consequences," Rubin says. "It's the unlucky few who will have problems. Parents can succumb to pressure from their children, without realizing that in the few cases where it does occur, the consequences are very serious and sometimes permanent."

It's not worth the risk, Rubin says. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has this to say: "The scary part about your Halloween costume shouldn't be the damage it does to your eyes."

Send your parental guidance questions to or follow her on Twitter @bethwhitehouse1.


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