19 October 2022

Fright Night: College of Optometrists advises the public to protect their sight this Halloween

The College advises the public against wearing novelty contact lenses this Halloween unless they are prescribed.

Are you considering wearing novelty contact lenses this Halloween? You’re not alone. Research conducted by The College of Optometrists showed that 63% of those who plan to dress up as part of Halloween celebrations will consider wearing cosmetic contact lenses. The same research shows that only 27% of people would buy novelty lenses from an optometrist, despite it being illegal to sell contact lenses with no prescription in the UK without the supervision of a registered optometrist, dispensing optician or doctor.

Denise Voon MCOptom, Clinical Adviser at The College of Optometrists, explains: “If you’re considering wearing novelty lenses this Halloween, make sure you speak to your optometrist. A massive 71% of our survey respondents didn’t realise it is illegal to sell contact lenses with no prescription in the UK without the supervision of a registered optometrist, dispensing optician or doctor. 

“Fancy dress lenses are often purchased by people who are not regular contact lens wearers, meaning they might not know how to handle and care for them properly, which can result in infection, damage to the eye, and potentially sight loss. Your optometrist can advise you on what lenses will be suitable for you, how long you can wear them, how to safely apply and remove them, and how to care for them.”

The College of Optometrists has issued the following advice for those intending to wear contact lenses this Halloween: 

  • Unlike standard contact lenses, fancy dress lenses may not be tailored to your eyes, which can increase the risk of eye health issues. Lenses that are not properly fitted, or from unreputable sources, may increase the risk of contact lens-related complications such as scratching your eye or causing an infection, so it is important that all contact lenses are fitted and dispensed by a qualified professional who can give you the appropriate advice on how to wear and use them safely.
  • If you are re-wearing contact lenses of any sort, including novelty lenses, you must make sure that they are suitable for this purpose, and only within the re-use period after first opening. You should clean and disinfect them thoroughly after use with the recommended contact lens solution. Never use tap water, the wrong solution, or lick them – and if they drop on the floor don’t simply pop them back in.
  • You should never use contact lenses after their expiry date.
  • You should not share contact lenses with friends, as even quickly trying them on can lead to eye infections.
  • Driving with novelty lenses (even if you wear glasses over the top) may also be dangerous: if the lens aperture does not align with your pupil they may impair your vision.
  • If you experience any eye discomfort when, or after, wearing any type of contact lens you should contact your optometrist for advice without delay.

Further information

For further information and advice on contact lens use and to find your nearest optometrist, visit the College’s patient website: www.lookafteryoureyes.co.uk

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Related further reading

Clinical Adviser for the College Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom on how to ensure a sustainable optometry workforce.

Clinical case studies can make a small but important contribution to the sum of clinical knowledge. Why do we need them, asks Kim Thomas, and how do you write one?

The College’s Clinical Editor, Jane Veys MCOptom, on rabbits in the headlights and royally good handovers