As we enter the dog-days of summer, where heat abounds, pools beckon, and green grass turns a little drier, those of us who wear contact lenses may find them drying out or causing discomfort. How can we prevent contact lens dryness or irritation during the summer?
- Wear sunglasses. Much as this is a no-brainer to protecting your eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun, as well as making it easier to see, sunglasses also help protect your contact lenses from the sun. The UV rays can cause your contacts to dry out and even harden as they dry. Choose a pair of sunglasses that you really like and wear them, wear them, wear them!
- Get contacts with UV protection. Like sunglasses with UV protection, these contacts help protect your eyes from UV rays. Coupled with good sunglasses, you will be protecting both your eyes and your contacts – a double dose of UV defense!
- Avoid mixing contacts with pool water or lake water. Pool water tends to be fairly salty from the chlorine levels, and contacts are intended to be in a solution that is close to the same saline level as your tears. Because the pool water is saltier than your tears, the salt will dry out your contact lenses. Take them out when you swim, if you can see well enough without them, or wear goggles over them. If you do a lot of swimming (or water-skiing or wakeboarding), consider prescription goggles instead of contacts. And if you can’t stand to wear goggles but you must have contacts in, consider getting single-use contacts that you can throw out after you are done swimming. The problem with lake water is the presence of bacteria. Bacteria from lake water can grow on contact lenses and cause an eye infection; the best way to combat this is with single-use contacts that are thrown out after swimming or prescription goggles.
- In fact, consider single-use contacts for general summer use. Single-use contacts are always moist and will not dry out on you, since you throw them out after one day. This can help in dry climates during the summer (or if you plan on vacationing somewhere much drier than Minnesota, like the Grand Canyon).
- Tote some lube along. For those days where you are sitting in the breeze of a fan or A/C unit or you are sunbathing on a warm day and your contacts are drying out, a little squirt of contact lens lubricating drops can save on major discomfort. Buy a small bottle of solution and keep it in your purse, man bag, or briefcase for those emergency
- Give your eyes a break! If you own a pair of glasses as an alternative to your contact lenses, wear them every once in a while to allow your eyes to refresh themselves. Make it a regular habit, choosing a specific day of the week to wear glasses instead of contacts (“On Wednesdays, we wear glasses”). You might find that you enjoy those days so much that you make them more frequent!