Before diving into the pool, lake or beach, make sure you are aware of the eye safety facts.
What can we do to protect our eyes while we cool off in the pool or have a swim at the beach? What are we protecting our eyes from anyways?
EYE IRRITANTS IN THE WATER
If you have ever felt a burning, stinging sensation after opening your eyes underwater at a public pool, then you have felt the burn of chloramine. This is a compound that forms when chlorine reacts with contaminants like dirt, oils, and urine. It sounds disgusting, but chlorine is great at killing harmful bacteria so that the water is safe to swim in. Chloramine only causes mild, temporary irritation to the eyes in most cases. Poor pH balance in the pool can also cause irritation.
More specifically, it can irritate your tear film or the thin layer of tears coating the surface of your eyes. Eye irritation due to pool chemicals typically causes a gritty feeling and redness in the eye, which could further lead to “swimmer’s eye,” a type of dry eye that commonly happens in people who use the pool frequently. Fortunately, you can avoid the harmful effects of chloramine and any lingering bacteria in the pool by wearing goggles.
DO NOT FORGET YOUR GOGGLES
An easy way to skip the sting is to wear goggles while swimming. Choose a pair that fits properly so that it can form a good seal over your eyes. If you wear glasses or contacts, you can even opt for a pair of prescription goggles to help you enjoy the underwater view.
While you can see underwater without goggles, wearing goggles makes things much clearer and sharper. In some ways, this is also a safety feature.
When you can see better underwater, you are less likely to run into something. Whether that is another swimmer, a ladder or slide that is in the pool, or something else in the water. Wearing goggles to see underwater can help keep you from getting injured.
Having a clear view underwater is also great for kids learning how to swim. They can see the bottom of the pool and their surroundings. This helps them feel more at ease and realize there is nothing scary in the water.
One of the biggest challenges of swimming outside is swimming with the sun in your eyes. The sunlight can make it hard to see above or under the water.
Certain goggles though are designed specifically for outdoor swimming. These goggles can help protect against UV rays and also reduce glare from the sun.
When looking for outdoor goggles, consider goggles that have the words ‘mirrored’ and ‘UV protection’. These will be the best options for outdoor swimming.
LEAVE THOSE CONTACT LENSES AT HOME
You are probably thinking: why not just wear normal goggles over my contacts instead of buying prescription goggles? As logical as that solution might seem, it does come with risks. Chlorine kills most of the microorganisms in water, but it does not get them all.
However, when you wear contact lenses while swimming, they act as Petri dishes for these microorganisms, which need a warm, moist environment to multiply.
One such microorganism is acanthamoeba, which lives in just about every body of water on the planet, wearing contact lenses while swimming can lead to acanthamoeba keratitis, which can do serious damage to the cornea and even cause permanent blindness.
Aside from the risk from microorganisms, contact lenses simply are not designed for use underwater. They could fall out and get lost, or they could shrink and tighten around the cornea, causing irritation. We recommend leaving the contacts behind and sticking to goggles whenever you are at the pool or participating in other water activities.
USE ARTIFICIAL TEARS TO FLUSH YOUR EYES OUT
Flush your eyes out with artificial tears after getting out of the pool. This will help restore the pH of your eye and remove some of the irritants. Tap water should not be used for this purpose because it can harbor acanthamoeba and other bacteria. That is why you should strictly use artificial tears recommended by your eye specialist to flush out your eyes after a swimming session.