Do you suffer from the eye drying effects of swimming in chlorinated (or lake) water? Well, for an enjoyable summer full of swimming and free of dry eye symptoms, remember these tips before you take the plunge!
If you are an avid swimmer or partake in water sports, then you’re undoubtedly exposed to the chlorine and saline used to treat the pool water (or the salt in the ocean). And while compounds like chlorine and salt are good for maintaining clean, clear water- they can adversely affect the tear film and water content in the eyes of swimmers. These compounds can wreak havoc on your eyes by slowly diminishing your tear film, especially if it’s already compromised. This depleted tear film often results in an over-concentration of salt which causes the discomfort, redness and blurred vision that is often experienced after a day of swimming.
To avoid those stinging post-swim eyes (also known as ‘swimmer’s dry eye’), be sure to read up on the following safety and prevention tips:
1. Wear goggles: Avoid swimmer’s dry eye by wearing goggles! Goofy looking or not, goggles are essential for protecting eyes from heavily chlorinated pool water. And don’t be fooled, though saltwater is generally gentler on the eyes, natural bodies of water still contain plenty of bacteria like algae that can aggravate and even infect overexposed eyes. Investing in a quality pair of goggles will help keep your eyes safe and provide a fun way to see clearly underwater. Win-win! (Note: Avoid opening your eyes underwater without goggles! Doing so can result in redness, irritation and exacerbated dry eye symptoms!)
2. Keep on top of chlorine levels: You’ve probably been in an over-chlorinated pool before and if you have, you can attest that it is no fun for your eyes. So, the next time you experience burning or itching upon entering a pool, get out immediately and rinse your eyes with fresh water. No vacation or local pool is worth risking your eye sight for.
If you’re lucky enough to have your own pool in the back yard, it is imperative to keep the pH levels of your pool balanced. Consider that tears produced by humans have a pH level of 7.0, thus if a pool has a pH level of below 7.0, it can cause a swimmer’s eyes to sting. Hire a pool caretaker or be extra diligent about keeping the pH levels of your pool between 7.3 and 7.8 for optimal swimming conditions.
3. Use drops prior: Just because your eyes aren’t red or irritated prior to swimming doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use eye drops as a defense. It can be helpful to apply drops before swimming in chlorine or salt water as a preventative measure.
4. Ditch the contacts: Remember to take your contact lenses out before swimming! Contacts can act as a ‘trap’ for harmful, irritating germs that would otherwise be washed away. If you require glasses or contacts to see while swimming, consider purchasing prescription, UV protective swim goggles. (Yes, there’s such thing and they’re affordable! Ask your optometrist.)
5. Wear your shades: If you’re catching some rays poolside or wading in the lake, don’t forget to wear a quality pair of UVA and UVB protective sunglasses. A good pair of shades should protect your peepers from overexposure and prevent the eye discomfort that intense light can cause. Further, be conscientious about wearing a pair of sunglasses while partaking in water sports like volleyball, aqua fitness and kayaking.
6. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! : Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water per day and more on days that you’ll be swimming. It’s vital to make sure you tear film is healthy and hydrated immediately before entering the water and directly after leaving the water.
7. Hands off: Upon getting out of the pool, do not rub your eyes! In fact, don’t touch your eyes at all until you’ve washed your chlorine-ridden paws! Instead, relieve your sore eyes with a cold compress to ease any itching or burning sensations.