Is it safe to wear contact lenses in the pool?

If you are one of the 30 million Americans who wear contact lenses, swimming this summer may come with an added risk.

We recently received this question from a viewer:

Dear Dr. Manny,
Is it safe to wear contacts in the pool? Can I get an infection?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends not wearing contact lenses in any kind of water.

Because contact lenses are porous, they can absorb bacteria and chemicals found in the water, which can lead to infections, irritation and potentially sight-threatening conditions.

While pools do not harbor as many microorganisms as natural bodies of water like lakes and ponds, you still run the risk of getting an infection. Exposure to water can also cause your contact lenses to tighten around your eyes, and chlorine added to pools to help keep the water clean can actually be very irritating.

Daily disposable lenses are your best bet for swimming because they are designed to be thrown out after just one use. But you should consider wearing swimming goggles to protect your eyes from contaminants.

If you decide to take your chances and water enters your eye, you should remove and disinfect your contact lenses as soon as possible.

And if you experience any symptoms like lasting eye redness, irritation, pain, or sensitivity to light after wearing your contact lenses in water – be sure to get immediate medical attention.

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