It’s illegal to sell any contact lenses without a prescription in the United States. But every Halloween there’s a resurgence in the popularity of colored contact lenses among revelers using them to enhance their costumes.
Most of these colored contact wearers don’t realize the risks they pose to their eyes, and potentially their vision.
Decorative lenses bought without a prescription will likely not fit properly, leaving the eye more susceptible to scratches on the outer layer of the eye, or getting an ulcer (an open sore) on the cornea — the clear covering over the front of the eye, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC). The result of a scratch or sore can be scarring, infection, and permanent vision reduction or loss in the most severe cases.
The packaging on decorative lenses often claim that they’re “one size fits all” or there’s “no need to see an eye specialist.” But using decorative contact lenses without a prescription is both dangerous and illegal, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. “This can cause pain, inflammation, and serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss,” the AAP states .
Don’t purchase decorative contact lenses from costume shops, online stores, beauty salons, drug stores, flea markets, or anywhere that doesn’t require a prescription,” the CDC warns.
Eye infections related to the improper use or care of contact lenses are very common.
“We see a lot of contact lense problems,” says Mark Feldman, M.D. , an ophthalmologist with the Baptist Eye Surgery Center  at Sunrise. “In our practice, we see about 150 contact lense infections a year of the cornea. These are very serious infections that can lead to the loss of vision in the affected eye.”
Here are other safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics related to dressing up your kids for parties or trick-or-treating:
- Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
- Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags for greater visibility.
- Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly so they don’t slide over eyes. Makeup should be tested ahead of time on a small patch of skin to make sure there are no unpleasant surprises on the big day.
- When shopping for costumes, wigs and accessories, look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
- If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
- Review with children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they ever have an emergency or become lost.