How to Prevent Eye Irritation and Infections from Pools and Lakes This Summer

You’ve weathered the long New York winter, and summer is finally here. At last, you can relax in the warm sun by the pool or lake and take a dip when the temperature hits a high note. But wait — before you dive in, make sure you protect your eyes from possible contaminants that could cause irritation or infections.

Dr. Brittni Rodriguez at Vistasite Eye Care in Harlem can answer any questions you might have about your eye health this summer. Whether it’s sun safety, pink eye, or chronic dry eyes, she specializes in diagnosing and treating your eye ailments. If you do find yourself fighting an infection after swimming this summer, she can help you treat it and prevent it the next time around.

What’s in the water?

If you get to hang out by the pool this summer, you will enjoy hours of refreshing fun and relaxing dips. But the chlorine, that’s meant to keep you safe from little organisms that grow and thrive in wet environments, is a chemical that can easily irritate your eyes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tested thousands of pools across the country and found an alarming number to be harboring germs. 

What’s more, chlorine doesn’t kill everything. In fact, some viruses and bacteria (including the virus that causes pink eye) can live in a chlorinated pool. 

If you are vacationing near a river or lake, beware of bacteria and viruses that naturally occur in freshwater. 

Remember that all water potentially carries contaminants, including sprinkler and hose water. If you or your kids cool off in the yard with sprinkler or hose toys, keep in mind that you not only need to consider what’s in the water, but how the water is used. High-velocity sprayers and sprinklers can hit your eyes and cause severe damage. So supervise kids playing with water toys, and remind them to keep the spray away from their eyes.

Knowing what’s in the water shouldn’t scare you off from swimming.Your body is well-equipped to fight off most things found in the water. Your eyes, however, could use a helping hand.

Protect your eyes in the water

Dr. Rodriguez has compiled her top three tips for keeping your eyes safe in the water, so you can enjoy a refreshing dip without worrying about the dangers lurking under the surface.

1. Go with goggles.

Protective eyewear is arguably the best way to keep bacteria and other contaminants out of your eyes when you go under water. They create a nice seal around your eyes which makes it hard for water, and therefore bacteria, to get near or in your eyes.

2. Rinse your eyes.

If you do go into the water without goggles, it’s best to give them a good rinse with a sterile eye wash solution that can easily be found over the counter. Some eye washes come with a rinsing cup that can be filled with solution and then placed over the eye to provide a gentle clean.You can also directly spray the solution into the eye to flush away the chlorine or other contaminants. Be careful not to touch the tip of the bottle to your eye.

3. Drop some eye drops.

If your eyes are still irritated a few hours after your swimming session, you may need a little extra help lubricating your eyes and bringing back your natural tears. Many over-the-counter products are available but not all of them are great for your eyes. Stick to trusted brands such as Refresh, Systane and Blink to help get rid of redness and calm the itchy, dry feeling. Stay away from Visine, which can cause more irritation to the eyes.

Contact lenses put you at greater risk

You may be asking for trouble if you wear your contact lenses in the water. Contact lenses create a perfect closed environment for bacteria to grow. The lenses sit on your eyes like little caps keeping fungi, parasites, and bacteria trapped and thriving. It’s best to skip the contacts altogether while you’re swimming.

If you absolutely need to see underwater, talk to Dr. Rodriguez about prescription goggles to give you a clear view whether you’re in a pool, lake, river, or ocean.

Signs of eye infection to watch out for

If you’ve taken all these precautions and still end up with red, irritated eyes, here are some things to look for that may indicate you have an eye infection.


If you experience any of these symptoms, call our office right away to schedule an appointment with Dr. Rodriguez.

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