Is it safe to wear contact lenses while swimming?

Medically reviewed by Tina Patel, Contact Lens Optician at Feel Good Contacts.

Thinking about swimming with your contact lenses in? It might sound convenient, but it's a risky move. Opticians strongly recommend not to wear contact lenses while swimming, taking a shower, or sleeping. Water from pools, lakes or showers can cause serious eye infections. In this article, we will guide you to keep your vision intact while swimming.

Risks of wearing contact lenses while swimming

Swimming while wearing contact lenses poses potential risks to your eye health. Here are just a few reasons why you should avoid wearing contact lenses while swimming:

  • Contact lenses absorb water quickly. Water bodies like pools, saunas, steam rooms, rivers, lakes and oceans are playgrounds for harmful pathogens, like Acanthamoeba. If lenses become contaminated with water, there is a higher risk of contracting Acanthamoeba Keratitis, an eye infection that affects the cornea (the clear dome that covers the coloured part of the eye) and may result in permanent vision loss if left untreated.
  • Wearing contact lenses while swimming can cause irritation, as the lenses absorb pool chemicals and can stick to your eyes.
  • Rigid Gas Permeable contact lenses should never be worn while swimming, as they can easily dislodge and even fall out of your eyes.

What to do if you wear contacts and want to swim?

If not wearing your contact lenses is not an option for you, here are a few suggestions, but it's important to bear in mind some key precautions:

  1. Go for swimming goggles:  some have suggested wearing waterproof, airtight swimming goggles under your daily disposable contact lenses could safeguard your eyes when swimming with contact lenses.

    The British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) states, “You should not use contact lenses for swimming or water sports unless you wear tight-fitting goggles over the top; ultimately, the lenses should be immediately discarded after the activity”. This minimises the chances of your lenses shifting or being contaminated by pool water, which may contain chlorine or other chemicals.

  2. Skip open-water swimming:  avoid taking a dip in oceans, lakes, or rivers if you wish to keep your lenses on while swimming. Open water often contains microorganisms and contaminants that can pose a high risk to your eye health.
  3. Maintain eye moisture:  chlorine and salt water can be harsh on your eyes, even with goggles.  Use eye drops  before and after swimming to lubricate your eyes and reduce discomfort. This helps retain moisture and decreases the likelihood of dry, irritated eyes.
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  1. Recognise early signs of infection:  if you notice any pain, redness, irritation or blurred vision after swimming in contact lenses, remove them immediately and seek advice from an eye care professional. These symptoms could indicate a serious eye infection or other issues requiring prompt attention.

What do to if your contacts get wet during swimming?

Even after taking all the required precautions like wearing waterproof goggles or not dipping your face into the water, there is always a chance that water may seep into your contacts. If that happens, remove your lenses as soon as possible. Step out of the water, make sure your hands are clean and dry, then gently remove the lenses and discard them. If your monthly contact lenses come in contact with water, it's best to replace them with a fresh pair.

Is it OK to shower with contact lenses?

The short answer, no. Avoid wearing contact lenses while showering. Water contains tiny little microbes known as Acanthamoeba, that can get trapped beneath the lens and significantly increase your risk of an eye infection. If left untreated, these microbes can cause serious sight threatening infections.

If you’ve mistakenly gone into the shower with contact lenses in, don’t panic. Simply rehydrate your eyes with artificial tears or rewetting drops (if you have some to hand) and then with clean, dry hands, remove your contact lenses carefully. Whether you are wearing daily disposable contacts, or you use monthly contact lenses, either way discard them immediately after taking a shower.

Can I cry with contacts in?

Yes, you can cry with contact lenses in. Your vision may go a little blurry due to all the extra tears, but don’t be alarmed. If you cry, your contacts may move around a bit and potentially get stuck under the top eyelid, they can usually be easily moved back into place. Don’t rub your eyes or wipe the tears away too rigorously, or the lenses might dislodge from your eye. If your eyes feel sore or tired, it would be a good idea to remove your lenses and wear glasses until you feel better.

Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace medical care or an in-person check-up. Please check with an eyecare professional before purchasing any products or remedies. For information on our article review process, please refer to our Editorial Policy.

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