Eyes Burn After Swimming In Saltwater? What To Do

Salt water pool eye irritation is not an uncommon problem. Even though it is not a traditional chlorinated water, salt water can still be irritating. If you have recently had red eyes or eye pain from using a saltwater swimming pool, read the doctor recommended tips below.

How Is Salt Water Pool Eye Irritation Different From Chlorine?

Saltwater pools generally have a different feel compared to traditional chlorine pools. Many people describe saltwater pools as having softer, silkier water that feels gentler on the skin and eyes. This is because the salt concentration in a saltwater pool is typically lower than the concentration of chlorine in a traditional pool. Chlorine usually causes more eye irritation than salt water.

Tips To Avoid Salt Water Pool Eye Irritation

​There are several things you can do to prevent irritated eyes when swimming.

1. Use Goggles When Swimming

​All swimming goggles are not created equal. Use goggles that adequately protect your eyes if you plan to dip your head under water. 

2. Do Not Swim In Contact Lenses Without Goggles

Although you may store your contact lenses in saline solution, salt water in a pool is not the same thing. It is not immaculately clean water. Therefore, swimming (or using a hot tub) with contact lenses greatly increases your risk for blinding eye infections.

3. Make Sure Your Pool Is Properly Cleaned

All pools require regular maintanence and cleaning to ensure that the salty water does not cause an improper pH balance. The saltwater system should be properly maintained and checked to ensure that it is working correctly at all times.

What To Do About Salt Water Pool Eye Irritation

 Saltwater lacks the lubricating properties and protective substances found in the natural tear film. This can lead to dryness, friction, and discomfort when salt water contacts the sensitive surface of the eye. There are several things you can do to ease symptoms from saltwater eye irritation. 

1. Take Contact Lenses Out Immediately

If you had swam in your contact lenses by acccident, you should immediately remove your contact lenses. You should keep these lenses in a separate case that is clearly marked. The reason it is recommended to save dirty contact lenses is if you do end up with a bad eye infection, the eye doctor may be able to culture the old contact lenses to figure out what bacteria is causing the eye infection. Do not place these lenses back in your eyes ever again.

2. Use A Cool Compress

There is no science to prove that this will help, but many patients do find it soothing to use a cool compress over their eyelids. This should only be done if your contacts are already out and you are not in extreme pain. Place the cold compress over the irritated eye for 1 to 2 minutes to see if this helps. You can use this along side artificial tears as mentioned below.

3. Use Artificial Tears

Artificial tears (not Visine or any drops that say “get the red out”) can be very helpful in soothing salt water pool eye irritation. You can use them on a regular basis for several weeks to ensure that dry eyes are not contributing to any existing irritation. Artificial tears can also help to clear the tear film of any unwanted chemical irritants. Although your human tears can do this naturally, using additional artificial tears can be very helpful to speed things along.

Artificial tears can also be helpful with dealing with itchy eyes. This is less likely than having a burning or stinging. Either way using preservative free tears can help your eyes to feel better.

4. See An Eye Doctor

If your symptoms are very painful, or you are experiencing symptoms like blurry vision or pink eye that is not getting better, see an eye doctor as soon as possible. Especially, if it has been a few hours and the symptoms have not improved or resolved, you should strongly consider going to see an eye doctor or an urgent care that can provide a referal to an eye doctor. Sometimes an urgent care can also prescribe antibiotic eye drops until you can get to see an eye doctor.

This is the best way to evaluate if any serious damage has been done to your eyes from the pool chemicals. If you have any signs of chemical conjunctivitis or any other concerning symptoms, do not delay in seeking medical care. 

Eye infections, especially after swimming, can happen very quickly and can be very devastating. One particular infection called acanthamoeba keratitis can result in blindness quickly. If there is a corneal ulcer or keratitis brewing, then the ophthalmologist can give you prescription eye medications to fight the infection. The sooner you get seen by an eye doctor, the sooner any permanent damage can be prevented. 

5. Take A Break From Swimming And Water Sports

Sometimes a swimmers’ eyes needs a break. The surface of our eyes is very sensitive and just taking a break from any harmful chemical touching it is likely to be very helpful. Avoid water sports for a few days to allow the eye’s surface to heal. 

If you begin swimming again and you continue to have the same issues, it is a good idea to use goggles so that the pool water does not make contact with your eye. Prevention is definitely the best option when it comes to protecting your eye from saltwater eye irritation. 

What Is The Concentration Of A Saltwater Pool?

The concentration of salt in a saltwater pool, also known as a saltwater chlorinated pool, is typically measured in parts per million (ppm) or percentage (%). The recommended salt concentration for a saltwater pool is usually around 2,500 to 3,500 ppm or 0.25% to 0.35%.

It’s important to note that the concentration may vary depending on the specific manufacturer’s recommendations for the salt chlorinator system being used. Some systems may require a slightly higher or lower salt concentration, so it’s always best to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for your particular equipment.

Maintaining the correct salt concentration in a saltwater pool is crucial for the proper functioning of the salt chlorination system, which converts the salt into chlorine to sanitize the pool water. Regular testing and adjustment of the salt level are necessary to ensure optimal performance and water quality.

Salt Water Pool Eye Irritation: Summary

Salt water pool eye irritation is not uncommon. The composition of saltwater is different from the physiological balance of fluids in the eyes. The introduction of saltwater can disrupt the pH balance and the natural buffering capacity of the tear film, causing irritation.

It is very important to never swim in contact lenses. Ideally, if you need to wear your contacts, then you should wear goggles that are airtight and do not allow any pool water to make contact with your eyes. You can use artificial tears to help sooth your eyes if you experience this problem and also a cool compress. 

Finally, if symptoms do not resolve or improve greatly within a few hours, see an eye doctor immediately. Blinding eye infections are associated with using the pool, swimming in lake water, even using water parks. If you have worn contacts and been exposed to water, take the contacts out immediately. Save them for being cultured by a doctor if needed, but never put them back in your eye ever.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply