Yes, we are surrounded by beautiful coastal waters that beg to be noticed, but that doesn’t mean local families can or want to spend their summer days on the beach. There are many reasons to swim in a backyard or neighborhood pool. Knowing that this is an easy way for families to occupy active children during the warm months of summer, we want to touch on the ways that swimming pool water might affect the eyes. We’ll also offer a few suggestions to prevent unnecessary irritation in your little ones (and yourself!)
Pool Water May not be Your Friend
Most people suspect that they will be warned against the potential for bacteria from pool water causing a problem in the skin or eyes. This may be true, but most pools that we swim in are kept clean and virtually bacteria-free with chlorine or other chemicals. Most parents can remember a time when their child’s eyes were red and irritated for a few hours due to a day in the pool. This irritation seems like a minor frustration, but it can be more.
Chlorine and other chemicals affect the tear film that keeps the surface of the eyes lubricated. This tear film also provides valuable infection-fighting protection. Therefore, yes, it is possible for pool water to increase the risk of eye infection such as pink eye. Even on the milder side, though, even the burning and redness and slight swelling that can occur after a day at the pool can be quite uncomfortable.
How to Have the Best of Both Worlds
It’s possible to spend multiple days a week at your favorite pool and avoid seeing your loved ones in pain due to chemicals from pool water. Tips to prevent eye irritation include:
- Wear swimming goggles.
- Drink plenty of water. This helps to maintain healthy tear production.
- Rinse the eyes with fresh water after swimming.
- Use eye drops or gel tears. These over-the-counter products can be applied before swimming to support the tear film on the ocular surface. Avoid eye drops to reduce redness; they might actually worsen the problem. Reapply after swimming is done for the day.
We wish for our patients to enjoy summer activities without unexpected problems like dry eye or infection. To receive support for your eyes, schedule a routine exam in our Kihei or Wailuku office.