Are Halloween costume contact lenses safe?
Kids all love the dressing up and make-up for Halloween and going out ‘trick or treating’ with their friends. Novelty contact lenses such as yellow cat eye lenses, coloured lenses, blacked-out lenses or even all white lenses are a great way to look even more scary and impress your friends but there can be a health risk using them.
Helen Tilley of Monnow Eyecare advises young people to be aware of the risks involved. “Whilst wearing cat or vampire eyes might seem like harmless fun, the lenses could pose serious risks if not fitted and used properly, and we know that friends will sometimes share and swap lenses which is dangerous”.
When people start using contact lenses for the first time, they need a qualified eyecare professional to show them how to clean them, take care of them after wear and fit them correctly. People often require a little practice putting lenses in and removing them correctly when they start. Opticians also teach users about ongoing clinical care. “Using unsuitable contact lenses can lead to serious problems including corneal ulcers and infections and the risk of developing a problem is 12.5 times higher when people use cosmetic lenses rather than prescription lenses” says Helen. “Whilst the risk is very low, these can develop into something more serious which could cause sight loss, so I always advise parents to stick to make-up with Halloween costumes rather than buy novelty lenses. If your child is a regular contact lens wearer already, always put lenses in before applying make-up and take them out before removing make-up as this reduces the chances of a bacterial infection developing”.
Mr Badrul Hussain, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Each year we treat patients, including children under 16, who have developed eye conditions after wearing cosmetic contact lenses especially in the period around Halloween. Some of the cases we see, like patients sharing lenses with friends, wearing the same pair year after year well past the expiry date, and storing them in tap water, have devastating effects.”
Trading standard officers get involved as well. Leon Livermore, Chartered Trading Standards Institute chief executive, said young people should avoid using these lenses and parents should be aware of the risks. He said: "Cosmetic contact lenses are often made and distributed on a 'one size fits all' basis and not tailored to the wearer's needs. We would advise against buying products like these online or from joke shop retailers as without professional supervision there are more likely to be health concerns for the individual."
If you’re concerned about the correct use of contact lenses you can get more advice and help from Monnow Eyecare.