How to prevent (or relieve) ‘Swimmer’s Eye’

In summertime, the pool is cool, but “swimmer’s eye” definitely isn’t.

Chlorinated swimming pool water and ocean saltwater are tough on the natural tear film that lubricates the eyes. So a refreshing dip can result in stinging, burning and redness.

People who already have dry eyes can be hit the hardest, observes Dr. Lee Wan, Coastal Eye’s Medical Director. “These patients wonder, ‘I’m in the water; why are my eyes getting drier?’ The trouble is, the eyes need more than just water for lubrication. There are natural oils and mucus and other layers that coat the eyes to keep them comfortable. Pool water washes out the oils and lubricants from the eyes, so once the swimmer gets out, the eyes can be even more irritated.”


Dr. Wan recommends that swimmers, especially those with dry eyes, use preservative-free artificial tears after a dip. The tears that come in disposable break-open plastic vials are convenient to carry along to the pool or the beach.

Some other suggestions from the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Eyesmart:

• Wear a pair of swim goggles when you swim.

• Splash your closed eyes with fresh water immediately after swimming to wash chlorine and other chemicals off your eyelids and eyelashes.

• Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water is an important part of keeping your eyes moist and comfortable.


Contact lens wearers: be aware that wearing your contacts in any type of water — pool, hot tub, ocean or lake — places you at high risk for a corneal infection. Many dangerous bugs, including bacteria and parasites, can attach and grow on the lenses after just one swim, and lead to devastating eye infections.

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