Why Your Eyes Burn and What To Consider When Swimming This Summer

This summer, many of us will be seeking relief from the heat by taking a dip. Whether you'll be heading to the lake, the pool, or the ocean, there are a few things to consider before diving in.

The Swimming Pool Problem

Most of us have had the experience of swimming in a chlorinated pool, opening our eyes underwater, and then feeling the burn for hours afterwards. For some, this effect is more sever than others, and the effects also vary from pool to pool. Either way, this is a clear indication of a problem. While there’s no evidence of long-term damage to eye health due to chlorine exposure, there are dangers associated with it.

Contrary to popular belief, this burning sensation isn't simply a result of your eyes coming in contact with the chemical. In a recent report this summer, the CDC announced that the redness and discomfort that sometimes accompany swimming are caused by chlorine binding to the sweat, urine, and other waste that lingers in the water. Not the best news to hear on the way to the pool.

The problem occurs because when submerged in chlorine-treated water, your eyes lose the tear film that protects them against infection. Even though the purpose of chlorine in pools is to reduce the amount of harmful bugs, some contaminants are resistant to the chlorine that is used. This means the natural defense system your eye uses is compromised, and your eye becomes vulnerable to the bacteria and other uhh....substances still lingering in the water.

To relieve the burning its recommended that you use a saline solution or some other approved eye wash to rinse the bacteria and chemicals from your eyes. It may still burn for a while, but often your eyes will naturally wash them away with time. If the burning persists long after your eyes are washed, please contact a doctor.

The Sun

You may have also noticed that lifeguards who spend most of their time sitting outside besides the swimming pool or beaches quite often wear sunglasses. This isn't actually just to look cool, its a crucial part of caring for your eyes. When we're cooling ourselves off in water, sometimes we forget that the suns rays are still hitting you just as much. Your eyes are susceptible to damage over time, and sunglasses or goggles with UV protection help to reduce that risk.

Contacts

If you swim without goggles, you should always remove your contacts before swimming. This goes for oceans, lakes, ponds, rivers, sinks, or any other body of water you can fit yourself into. Water can get caught between the contact lens and the eye, increasing the risk for eye infections. Contact lenses are also more prone to fall out and get lost when you are in the pool.

The Solution
If you are one of the many who have felt your eyes burning after taking a dip, it may be a good idea this year to invest in a good pair of UV protective goggles to avoid all of these issues. If not, then hopefully the knowledge of why your eyes burn will be enough to make you think twice before opening your eyes in the pool. Stay safe this summer, and be sure to have your eyes checked regularly!

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