Have you ever felt a slight burning in your eyes after a swim? Or looked in the mirror after an afternoon in the pool and noticed red, agitated eyes? Irritation is a common reaction when eyes come into contact with chlorine.
The Effects of Chlorine
Chlorine is a sanitizing agent commonly added to pool water to prevent the spread of germs and outbreaks. Chlorine is not usually detectable by smell in healthy, well-maintained pools. Although it is undetectable by smell, we can certain feel the chemical when our eyes are exposed to it.
When we splash around in the water, chlorine begins to erode our tear film, which is a thin layer of tears that coat the surface of the eye. The tear film is responsible for keeping our eyes hydrated and clear. When chlorine and other chemicals wash away this delicate layer, the following eye issues can occur:
- Red, itchy eyes. A common reaction to chlorine is red, itchy eyes. Those who swim frequently may develop dry eye.
- Pink eye or conjunctivitis. These eye infections are common among swimmers because they spread quickly in water.
- Acanthamoebic keratitis. This severe infection results in ulcers on your cornea and permanent damage to your vision.
How Can We Protect Our Eyes?
By taking simple precautions, you can protect your eyes and enjoy time in the pool. Here are four ways to keep your eyes healthy while swimming:
- Wear goggles: Perhaps the easiest way to keeps eyes healthy in the water is to wear goggles. Goggles reduce the exposure between the chemical water and your eyes, helping to keep your tear film healthy.
- Wash your eyes with fresh water: Splashing the eyes with fresh water can provide immediate relief to itchy, red eyes. This will also wash away any chemical residue from your eyelids and eyelashes.
- Use eye drops: Eye drops can restore the tear film and provide relief from chemical irritation. We recommend using eye drops before and after swimming to keep eyes comfortable. Contact our office to find the right eye drops for your eyes.
- Ditch the contact lenses: Remove your contacts before you jump in the pool. Doing so will greatly decrease the risk of getting a corneal infection. If you forget this step, remove them immediately after swimming and sanitize with lens solution. If possible, discard the lens and use a fresh pair.
Don’t miss out on the fun this summer and take the necessary steps to protect your eyes!
Rodrigue and Associates Eyecare is the leading eye care specialty practice in Augusta, Maine. For over 38 years, we have focused on providing our patients with the highest quality optometric and medical eyecare.