By the time summer rolls around, we’re well on our way into the hottest part of the year. You love the warm air, the sunshine, and the views outside, but the heat can become more than a little unbearable.
As the temperatures begin to rise, you think of fun ways you and your family can cool off and find some respite from the ever-present heat waves—like by camping, stargazing, or swimming at the local pool.
Swimming is a fun activity, one that not only helps you feel more comfortable in the heat but that also helps you exercise more frequently. But if you wear corrective lenses of any kind, swimming can be a bit more difficult for you than for people with perfect vision.
Specifically, if you wear contact lenses, you may wonder if you can swim with them in. Below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about swimming in contacts so you can still stay cool this summer while keeping your eyes healthy and your contact lenses in good condition.
Although your contacts allow you to see perfectly during your normal, daily activities, these corrective lenses were not made for water. In fact, when you were prescribed your contact lenses, your eye doctor told you how to care for them—and those instructions likely included strict guidelines to not rinse your contacts in water.
This advice has merit for a few reasons. Water—whether it be pool water, tap water, lake water, or shower water—can house microbes, viruses, chemicals, and bacteria that could cause eye problems and irritation.
If these microbes or viruses get trapped in your contacts, they remain in your eye longer. As a result, your risk for eye infections and more serious conditions increases.
For example, the Acanthamoeba organism is one microbe you could encounter in water. This organism attaches to your contacts and then causes your cornea to inflame and become infected in a condition known as Acanthamoeba keratitis. If the infection isn’t caught and treated early on, a corneal transplant is necessary to restore your vision.
Fortunately, a severe infection like Acanthamoeba keratitis isn’t a very common condition. More likely, you’ll experience a slight irritation or infection in your eyes when you’re exposed to the floaters and bacteria in water. If your eyes feel irritated or if you’re developing an infection, you might notice the following eye-related symptoms:
If you’ve recently gone swimming and have developed these systems, make an appointment with your optometrist immediately.
Have you recently hit the pool, the beach, or the lake? If you’ve recently taken a swim and worn your contacts while under the water and experience any the symptoms listed above, take the following steps:
Once you visit your eye doctor, he or she will examine your eyes, pinpoint the cause of the discomfort, and treat your condition. The sooner you can get treated, the less risk you have for developing more serious eye problems.
You can still enjoy summertime water activities and care for your eyes—without the risk of infection. If you plan to swim but need corrective lenses, invest in a pair of prescription goggles. You can also wear your contacts with completely closed goggles if you can’t get a prescription.
Simply remove your contacts after you’ve finished, rinse them thoroughly with contact solution, wet your eyes with rewetting drops, and put your contacts back in.
If you hate the feel of goggles over your face, you can wear daily use, disposable contacts in the pool. Dispose of these lenses immediately after you’ve finished swimming, and wear glasses or a new pair of contacts for the remainder of the day.
Note, however, that bacteria and microbes can still enter your eye. Wearing single-use contacts to swim doesn’t guarantee your eyes won’t get infected or irritated, but it does lower your risk.