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Protect Your Eyes When Hitting the Pool

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TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Chlorine helps keep pool water clean, but it can also make swimmers more likely to develop eye infections, doctors say.

Pool swimmers can also develop red, irritated eyes as well as blurry vision, said Dr. Sampson Davis, an emergency room physician at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in New Jersey.

It's important to understand why this happens, Davis said.

Swimming in chlorinated pools washes away the outer film layer of the eye that helps protect against infection. And chlorine might not completely rid the water of dirt and bacteria. As a result, swimmers may develop pink eye or other eye infections, Davis explained.

Chlorine can irritate the cornea and cause the eyes to become dry. This can lead to blurry vision.

Davis provided several tips to help swimmers prevent or ease these uncomfortable symptoms:

  • To prevent eye issues while swimming, wear water-tight goggles.
  • Remove contact lenses. The space between the eye and the contact lens may provide a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.
  • For dry or irritated eyes, use lubricating eye drops.
  • Flush irritated or burning eyes with an eye wash or tap water for 15 minutes after swimming.

Although these steps can help ease minor redness and irritation, Davis said it's important to recognize signs of a more serious problem. Swimmers who notice the following symptoms should seek immediate medical attention:

  • Red eyes that are draining fluid.
  • Blurry or distorted vision.
  • Severe pain.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more on chlorine in swimming pools.

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