Q&A with Dr. Richard Norden on protecting your eyes in pools
The last thing on most people's minds before jumping into a body of water -- whether it's a pool, a river or the ocean -- is the eyes.
But you should be careful, says Dr. Richard A. Norden, an eye care specialist and ophthalmologist based in Ridgewood, N.J.
The bacteria levels of the water you're jumping into may be high, and when it comes to pools, too much -- or too little -- chlorine, can be an issue.
Norden spoke with amNewYork.
Why is eye health important?
Virtually everyone feels that vision is the most important sense you have. However, your eyes do more than just allow you to see. They also help you to communicate and convey your personality.
What are the eye health risks involved with swimming in pools?
Pools are actually breeding grounds for conjunctivitis and other recreational water illnesses. ... According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), within the first 15 minutes of entering a pool the average swimmer contributes at least 0.14 grams of fecal matter to pool water, and nearly 60% of inspected public pools were contaminated with this substance, which happens to be a leading cause of pink eye. However, even the chemicals used to clean pools, like chlorine, can be harmful to the eyes, nose, throat, lungs and skin.
What are some of the risks associated with getting chlorine in your eyes?
Chlorine can induce what the American Optometric Association calls "chemical conjunctivitis," which is essentially a self-resolving case of pink eye that causes eye irritation. Pool water can commonly irritate, dry out, and burn eyes. ... Eye irritation from chlorinated water can also make it painful or difficult to place contact lenses on your eyes after swimming. If you wear contacts ... you should also wear water goggles.
What else in a pool is harmful to your eyes besides chlorine?
Nowadays, chlorine isn't enough to kill harmful bacteria. The combination of sweat, lotions, sunscreen, fecal matter and especially urine contain nitrogen, which can diminish a pool's chlorine, creating a chlorine by-product consisting of chloramines, which is less capable of cleaning the water. This by-product is what causes that strong chlorine odor, misleading swimmers into believing the pool is clean. ...
What can kids and adults do to protect their eyes?
The simplest way to prevent these symptoms and protect one's eyes is to invest in some inexpensive water goggles. You should never share or borrow water goggles as they can easily spread bacteria and germs. The same goes for beach towels ... especially if you wipe your face with your towel. Germs can spread from eye-to-eye, causing a not-so-fun pool party.
Also, take the additional precaution of washing your hands after swimming and then rinse out your eyes with some eye drops.
What should pool owners do to keep their pool clean and eye-friendly?
The germs in pool water tend to come from the body. So, pool owners should advise guests to rinse off before and after swimming. ... The fact of the matter is that if people aren't rinsing off ahead of time, they can add harmful germs and bacteria to the water.