Spring and summer are coming, which means more of us will be enjoying time with our friends and family around the pool! While always a fun time, it’s important to consider water safety, especially for your eyes.
For those of us who wear contacts or glasses, spending time in the pool comes with a little frustration. For example, wearing glasses in the pool can be annoying. You’ll likely deal with water spots and glares and will need to be careful not to damage your frames. However, not wearing contacts or glasses isn’t an ideal situation either—depending on the severity of your prescription.
So, wearing contacts might seem like a safe compromise for some fun in the sun. But, can you safely wear your contacts in the pool?
The short answer is no. The FDA, CDC, AOA and pretty much all health-affiliated organizations or agencies recommend not mixing contacts and water. The main reason is because contact lenses are made with soft, porous material, and swimming with contact lenses creates an opportunity for your eyes to become contaminated and infected because of bacteria. If not treated, this could lead to illness or even eventual blindness. Most commonly, contacts and water contamination results in eye infections or irritations.
Now, this isn’t meant to sound alarmist; many people (especially teenagers and young adults) admit to ignoring this recommendation. However, vision care is critical and important to consider. Water of all kinds—tap, distilled, chlorinated, ocean, salt, fresh, etc—contain contaminants, which includes bacteria, viruses, and microbes that can harm your eyes.
If you wear your contacts in the pool, don’t get your face wet, touch your eyes, or try to open your eyes underwater (This is a very easy way for bacteria to pass through and become trapped behind your contact lenses).
If you wear your contacts in or around any body of water—whether that be a pool, lake, or ocean—clean your contact lenses thoroughly with cleaning solution immediately after exposure to the water. Soak your lenses in clean solution for at least 12 hours. In the meantime, flush your eyes out with warm water or eye drops and wear glasses. This will help ensure that your contacts are clean and that your eyes have time to flush out any bacteria.
Better yet, throw the contacts you wore in the water away. It’s important to switch out your lenses frequently to keep your eyes healthy. Daily disposable lenses are the safest because they are not meant to be worn more than once. However, it should again be stated that wearing contacts in water should not be a frequent occurrence due to the risk for infection.
Swim goggles are one option to help protect your eyes, while also wearing contacts around the pool. Goggles are waterproof so they keep water away from your eyes and allow you to see. Some goggles also come with UV protection, so you can amp up pool safety by keeping the sun’s rays at bay!
For frequent or competitive swimmers, prescription swim goggles are a great option.
To find out how you can best protect your eyes in the pool, talk to your eye doctor. He or she can help determine which option is best for you and make sure you (or your children) don’t have to miss out on fun in the sun!
Mather Vision Group is an optometry office in Lafayette, Indiana. Contact Mather Vision to schedule an appointment, or stop in to see the optometrist’s large variety of glasses and frames. You can find Mather Vision us online, on Facebook, and on Google+.