What effect chlorine from swimming pools has on your eyes?
The vacations have finally arrived for many Italians, and with it the pool and beach season, one of the most anticipated times of the year but also the time when the most eye problems occur. According to data provided by www.clinicabaviera.it, one of the leading ophthalmology companies in Europe, visual problems increase by more than 30 percent at this time of year, but many could be avoided with small precautions. The reasons why the eyes suffer more in summer than at other times of the year are many: these include, for example, the sun, sea water, air conditioning, but chlorine and swimming pools are undoubtedly the biggest culprits.
Chlorine is a substance that is used in most swimming pools
Chlorine is a substance that is used in most swimming pools to disinfect the water; it helps prevent exposure to harmful levels of microbes that can compromise health in general and eyes in particular. It is a chemical element that is made from common salt and there are several types, all with the same function, which is to protect against bacteria, parasites and viruses. Today, more and more pools use salt water instead of chemicals to avoid skin and eye irritation, but this requires a larger investment at the beginning, as it is necessary to install a salt chlorination system that generates chlorine through electrolysis of the salt water. In either case, it is necessary to continuously check the water quality to ensure that the pool is in perfect condition and does not create health problems, measure the ph, clean the filters, monitor the purification system, and perform many other maintenance tasks to make sure that everything is in order.
There are external factors such as creams, sweat and other substances
Regardless of whether the pool meets all the necessary requirements for not being “harmful,” there are external factors such as creams, sweat and other substances that can affect your health and especially your eyes, along with the chlorine itself, which, while it prevents bacteria, also irritates. That is why the experts at Clinica Baviera decided to give some tips on how to take care of your eyes in the pool and avoid problems during the most beautiful months of the year:
1. Apply eye cream half an hour before bathing
Before entering the pool it is important to apply cream; ideally, you should do it half an hour before, because the sun does more damage when you are in the water and you don’t realize that you are getting burned, also because it is essential that the skin absorbs the cream and is not immediately washed off with water. If the cream is not fully absorbed, it can easily get into the eyes and cause irritation, discomfort and itching.
2. Showering before and after entering the pool
Showering before entering the pool is essential because most eye problems are due to external agents such as sweat and cream. These agents, when in contact with chlorine, produce a substance called chloramine that irritates the skin and eyes; it is essential to shower first to avoid contamination of the pool by outside agents. It is also essential to take a shower after bathing, too, to remove any residual chlorine left on the body and face especially, so that it does not cause problems.
3. Using goggles
The first thing to do when entering the pool is to wear goggles. It is important to avoid contact between water and the eyes, which can cause eye infections, and it is recommended not to open the eyes underwater without having goggles on. It is essential to make sure that goggles are fitted and adjusted correctly, so you must always wear the right size, otherwise water can get in. Once worn, they should be well adjusted so that water does not enter, but they should not be too tight or they can damage the eyes. It is essential that they be approved and have filters to protect against ultraviolet rays. Finally, it is necessary to change them from time to time, as rubber bands deteriorate.
4. Do not splash
When you enter the water, it is important not to splash yourself: however, children and others often play at it, which is one of the main reasons why water gets into the eyes. Almost every time you go into the pool with the intention of swimming you wear goggles, but the vast majority of eye irritation is due to splashing that occurs in short swims when you think goggles are unnecessary; you should try to avoid these situations, not splash yourself and always wear goggles.
5. Do not wear contact lenses in water
It is important not to wear contact lenses when going to the pool, as wearing them in the water can be harmful to your eye health. Contact lenses can act as a reservoir for viruses and bacteria. L’acanthamoeba, for example, is a water parasite that can attach to contact lenses and damage the eyes, causing conjunctivitis, keratitis or even more serious eye problems.
An’alternative to contact lenses in the water can be prescription underwater goggles, which make it easier to see in the water but do not damage vision health as contact lenses do.
6. Prepare a towel by the side of the pool
It is advisable to always leave a towel near the pool. When entering the water, it is sometimes not possible to avoid chlorine getting into the eyes, even with goggles. Having a towel on hand is very helpful: drying them instantly as soon as you leave or as needed can help avoid eye irritation.
7. Do not bathe with makeup on
Ideally, do not bathe in makeup, as particles can get into the eyes and cause irritation; but there are people who “need” to wear makeup to feel good, in which case it is advisable to use waterproof makeup that resists water and does not damage the eyes.
If you follow these tips but continue to get water in your eyes and there is irritation, Bavaria Clinic experts recommend following these guidelines:
- Don’t rub your eyes so as not to spread the substance all over the eye.
- Gently wipe the eyes with a towel.
- Wash the face and eyes with cold water.
- Rinse eyes with saline solution.
- Blink enough to clean the eyes yourself.
- Use artificial tears to moisturize the eyes.
- Do not share towels to avoid infecting others.
- Do not bathe until the eyes are well.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from further irritation.
- If problems persist, consult an ophthalmologist.
Dr. Federico Fiorini, medical director of Clinica Baviera Bologna explains, “At this time of year, vision problems increase, mainly due to swimming pools, beaches, sand, creams, air conditioning and, in most cases, chlorine. We at Clinica Baviera Italia want to give some advice to prevent eye problems from ‘ruining’ your vacation, because it is very common for chlorine to irritate the eyes, causing a simple irritation or in some cases going so far as to cause conjunctivitis or other more serious problems. When the conjunctiva is irritated it causes redness of the eyes, which is the first symptom that can be detected; it can also cause discomfort when holding the eyes open, photophobia or sensitivity to light, or even tearing; if the symptoms persist after a few hours, you should see an ophthalmologist”.