The spring days are starting to warm up, and you know what that means: Summer will be here before too long. Summer brings with it loads of poolside fun--and the stinging vision of chlorine-exposed eyes. You know the feeling. Red, itchy, dehydrated eyes and blurry or temporarily distorted vision. With summer fun is on the horizon, the prospect of bloodshot or irritated post-swim eyes can dull the excitement of fun in the sun. But with a bit of summertime vision know-how, you can keep your eyes seeing great, no matter how much pool time you plan to soak up.
The average-sized backyard swimming pool uses 12-95% chlorine for sanitization to prevent dangerous infections from spreading through the water between people. While that concentration of chlorine might not mean much to most people, think of it like this: most house cleaning chemicals contain only 2-5% of chlorine. So when you’re diving into that pool this summer, you’re exposing yourself to chemicals (and chemical compounds) that can wreak havoc on your eyesight.
The problem with swimming pools
The problem with swimming pools and chlorine is that using trace amounts of chlorine doesn’t do enough to kill all the bacteria that could be living in your pool. So greater concentrations of the chemical must be used to minimize the effects of germs from people, sweat, dirt, urine and fecal matter. But even in small amounts, chlorine can strip away the protective layer that shields your cornea from potential hazards—leaving your eyes unprotected. Any lingering bacteria in a pool now has free entrance to your eyes.
But that’s not all. Even in small amounts, chlorine can lead to long-term eye damage if your eyes are continually exposed to it. Not only can it cause swelling in the cornea, but it can increase the risk of infections like chemical conjunctivitis (pink eye). We won’t even mention the additional hazards of chemicals in your sunscreen mixing with the chlorine, or when contact lens wearers go swimming, lenses and all.
From irritation and general discomfort to Dry Eye syndrome and pink eye, poor swimming habits can leave your eyes feeling less than optimal. So what can you do to maximize your fun this summer, while minimizing the discomfort? Increase your swimming and eyecare IQ!
How to prevent swimming eye problems
Remove contacts before your swim
Eye conditions are sometimes completely preventable, and the acanthamoebic keratitis eye infection is one of them. Swimming with your contact lenses can trap organisms between your cornea and lens, which can lead to permanent damage. So before you take a swim, make sure to remove your contact lenses. Or, better yet, ditch the contact lenses altogether by investing in some long-term corrective surgery like LASIK before the summer fun begins.
Use water-tight goggles
A well-fitting pair of goggles can help protect your eyes not only from the effects of the chlorine but from the bacteria haunting your pool. When your eye safety is at stake, you should take every precaution. Goggles are still one of the top methods that swimmers should always use. Check out this video for tips on how to pick out the right, water-tight swimming goggles this summer.
Flush eyes with plenty of water after a swim
Water or chlorine can sometimes still enter your goggles. Make a habit to rinse your eyes out with plenty of clean water once you finish your swim to rinse away any remaining chlorine that is lingering and wreaking havoc on your cornea.
Lubricate your eyes
Make sure to stash some hydrating eye drops in your poolside bag this summer. After swimming and rinsing your eyes, adding some lubrication to them could minimize the dryness and help them reform the tear film stripped by the chlorine.
Check your pool’s pH levels regularly
Pool safety is about balance. Test your pool’s pH levels regularly, and aim to keep it between 7.2 and 7.8. This provides a good balance for better vision care and good water sanitization.
Whether you’re lounging by the pool after a swim or floating around the pool on an inflatable, shielding your eyes from the sun is vitally important to the wellness of your eyes.
As summertime approaches, your sweat glands are working hard with the rising temperatures to keep you cool through perspiration. Make sure to drink plenty of water (8-10 glasses a day) throughout the summer to replenish your body’s hydration and minimize the effects of dry eyes.
Summer should be fun. Incorporate these tips (and your regular eye exams) into your fun in the sun to guard your eyes against the effects of chlorine and chemical compounds, and have your best summer of good vision yet.