Hitting the pool can cool you off and is a fun way to get fit. While a refreshing swim might leave you renewed and invigorated, it can also lead to uncomfortable, itchy eyes. Eye irritation due to swimming, or chemical conjunctivitis, is a common problem among those who swim in chlorinated pools. Caused by irritants such as chlorine, air pollution or chemical exposure, chemical conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin layer of transparent tissue that covers the white of the eye. Learn to identify, treat and prevent eye discomfort before your next dip in the pool.
Signs and Symptoms
People who experience chemical conjunctivitis from swimming may display symptoms in one or both eyes. These symptoms include a gritty sensation, itching, burning and excessive eye watering. Discharge from one or both eyes is a common symptom, as are swollen eyelids, eye redness, light sensitivity and blurred vision.
According to the American Optometric Association, flushing the eyes thoroughly with warm water or saline solution can help remove irritants from the surface of the eye, relieving chemical conjunctivitis. Cold compresses can combat inflammation and irritation, and over-the-counter lubricating eye drops can ease itching and burning. Contact lens wearers may need to discontinue the use of their lenses until the eye inflammation and irritation has passed.
Eye irritation that lasts for more than a few hours after swimming or does not respond to self-care treatment should be evaluated by an eye care professional. See your eye doctor if thick, pus-like discharge is present. Chlorine irritation can result in the temporary clouding of vision, but consult your eye doctor if vision changes persist for more than an hour or two, as this can indicate more serious complications.
Preventing Eye Irritation
Help prevent eye irritation when swimming in a home pool by testing the water's pH frequently and adjusting pool chemicals accordingly. According to the CDC, a pH level between 7.2 and 7.8 is ideal for eye comfort and pool disinfection. However, maintaining the ideal pH level in your pool can be difficult and in a public pool, chemical and pH levels are beyond your control. Swimming goggles can be a good alternative, guarding against eye irritation by providing a watertight barrier between sensitive eye tissues and pool water.