The simple answer is no, you shouldn’t. Contacts should not be exposed to water, including tap water, swimming pools, lakes, oceans, hot tubs, and even showers. Water has invisible microscopic organisms that can potentially lead to eye infections, and these organisms can accumulate in shared bodies of water like swimming pools. One of these organisms is Acanthamoeba, which can cause rare but very serious eye ulcers that can result in permanent vision loss. Furthermore, water can have contaminants and chemicals that can cause eye irritation. So, the easiest way to prevent eye infections is to avoid mixing contacts and water – this means no swimming while wearing contacts, and never, ever clean your contacts with water!
If you must wear contacts while swimming, you should wear goggles over your contacts. Goggles will protect your eyes from the water, and decrease the chances of your contacts displacing from your eye. If water gets in your eyes while swimming, you should remove your contacts immediately and disinfect them (if you are wearing monthly lenses) or discard them (if you are wearing daily disposable lenses). If you decide to swim with contacts, daily disposable lenses are the safest option. The risk of getting an eye infection with daily disposable contacts is much lower because the lenses are discarded after each use. If you experience eye irritation, pain, sensitivity to light, redness, or changes to your vision, see an eye doctor right away.
If you’re going swimming this summer, follow these 5 tips to keep your eyes safe:
- Don’t swim in contacts if you don’t have to
- Wear goggles over your contacts
- Remove your contacts immediately after swimming and discard them (daily disposables are the safest option)
- Bring extra contacts and contact lens solution
- Wear sunglasses – protect your eyes from the UV light coming from the sun above and reflecting off surfaces like water