A Closer Look at Swimming Pools
What You Can’t See Might Hurt You
There are a host of chemicals responsible pool owners use to sanitize and clean their swimming pools. Everything from sodium carbonate to increase the pH or acidity of the water, chlorine or bromine to control bacteria and algae growth, to bleaches, stain removers, salts, and clarifiers.
While each of these chemicals may be relatively safe in small amounts, you never know what you’re getting into when you dive into the deep end of the pool.
If you’ve ever experienced a glorious day of swimming to ward off the summer heat, followed by an evening of red, irritated eyes, you’ve probably felt the effects of these chemicals on the protective film that protects the cornea of your eye.
The most common culprit of chemical eye irritation in swimming pools is chlorine; while chlorine is generally considered necessary to sanitize pools by killing water-borne bacteria, it also combines with existing contaminants in the pool to create chloramine, and it’s the chloramine that really stings.
To Risk or Not To Risk
The stinging and redness caused by chlorine and chloramine in pools is generally temporary for most people, but for those with more sensitive eyes than others, that irritation could last quite a bit longer.
In some cases, the irritation can be just the beginning. Chlorine and other water sanitizers are used to control bacteria and algae growth, reducing the risk of water-borne viruses and other microorganisms, but they don’t kill everything. For that matter, lakes, ponds, and rivers all support some amount of bacteria and microorganisms, and they aren’t treated with sanitizers at all.
The bacteria present in the water is what causes the real concern. Common eye infections like pink eye or conjunctivitis spread quickly through water and can effect a host of people wherever they’re present. Other more severe eye and related infections can also occur, as pool water, though regularly treated, is a veritable Petri dish of possible bacteria.
Take Precautions Before and After
The idea of swimming in public pools or common swimming holes need not be as terrifying as it may sound. A few simple precautions before and after you swim can far and away reduce your risks of infection or irritation.
- Remove contact lenses before swimming.
- If you do swim with contacts on, remove them immediately after swimming and sanitize them with lens solution.
- Always wear water-tight goggles with a strong seal when swimming.
- If you have to wear contact lenses in the pool, make sure to wear a good pair of goggles.
- Try not to swim with your eyes open underwater more than you have to.
- Flush your eyes with cool, clean water and saline eye drops after swimming to restore the protective film on your eyes.
If you experience redness and irritation that doesn’t go away fairly quickly after swimming, you could have contracted an infection. Contact your eye doctor at Berlin Optical Expressions and make an appointment to have your eyes checked. Also, avoid swimming until your eyes are given the all clear; the last thing you want to do is spread an infection to anybody else!