North America's Premier Network
of Private Practice Optometrists

Join Us

Underwater Eye Safety

Summer is the time for fun in the sun and in the water, but it’s definitely not the time to take a break from eye safety.

Whether you love river rafting, surfing, water-skiing, deep sea diving, synchronized swimming, or just enjoying a leisurely swim at the local pool, you’re probably going to end up underwater at some point. Here are some tips to make sure your eyes stay safe and healthy when that happens.

Swimming Without Goggles Is Risky

It’s not the chlorine that makes your eyes sting in a swimming pool. What stings your eyes is the compound chloramine, which forms when chlorine reacts with dirt, urine, and the fats and oils that wash off of us in the pool.

As unpleasant as the thought of how chloramine forms is, it will only cause mild, temporary irritation in most cases. Because it’s harder to see underwater, though, you’re also at higher risk for eye injury than you are out of the pool. Goggles ensure your safety from all these hazards.

Swimming Pools And Contact Lenses Don’t Mix

We aren’t the only ones who enjoy a refreshing swim; unfortunately, so do many species of microorganism, none of which you want near your eyes. Public pools are treated with chlorine to make the water an inhospitable environment for many types of microorganisms, but it doesn’t kill all of them.

Without contact lenses, there still isn’t much to worry about. With contact lenses in, however, it’s a different story. Losing your lens in the water is an obvious risk, but not the worst that could happen. Soft contact lenses in particular are not meant to be in water at all, because it causes them to shrink, tightening around the eyes and causing significant irritation.

Contact lenses also act as petri dishes, trapping those microorganisms against the eye and providing them with a warm, wet space where they will happily multiply. The most dangerous is acanthamoeba, which can cause permanent blindness and lives in all bodies of freshwater, no matter how clean. If you do wear contacts in the pool, make sure you wear goggles too.

For a few more fun facts about water and our eyes, watch the video below:

Swim Prepared!

The best way to keep your eyes safe while you swim is by wearing goggles and leaving your contacts at home. Bring glasses to wear when you’re out of the pool, and you could even get prescription goggles so that you don’t even miss your contacts. Knowing your eyes are safe will make it much easier to enjoy yourself while you swim!

Wishing all our patients a fun and eye-safe summer!

Top image by Flickr user Yatmandu used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Author Vision Source — Published July 17, 2017

Posted In Eye Health Awareness