Contact Lens Safety Tips for Sunny Destinations
Spring break is around the corner. In spite of global coronavirus concerns, according to travelpulse.com there is actually an increase in planned travel for this year’s spring break-up by 25% from last year. The most popular travel destinations include beach getaways such as Cancun. If you are amongst the many planning to travel this March break you may have already stocked up on bathing suits, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, medications and other necessities but are you truly prepared? If you are a contact lens wearer you might not be according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact they cite that 99% of contact lens wearers put their eye health in danger by practising improper contact lens hygiene while on vacation failing to follow guidelines for care set out by the American Optometric Association AOA.
To keep your eyes safe, we’ve outlined common hygiene mistakes contact lens wearers make while on vacation, the risks they pose and how to avoid them. Read on to learn more…
Why beach travel can harm your eyes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 99% of contact lens wearers commit at least one unsafe hygiene behaviour routinely while on vacation. These include:
- Sleeping or napping in contact lenses (87.1%)
We get it… you see an inviting hammock, and think you’ll just doze off for a bit or after hitting the disco and possibly the tequila you’re too exhausted to take your contacts out and go to sleep with your lenses in. Wearing lenses to bed or while sleeping increases risk of infection. According to a CDC report this one contact lens infraction increases risk of infection by 6-8 times. These corneal infections require frequent administration of antibiotic eye drops, multiple follow-up appointments and may cause permanent eye damage.
- Showering (84.9%) or swimming (61%) in contact lenses
Sunny vacations usually involve swimming in the ocean or pools. Exposing contact lenses to pool water and other unfiltered water exposes them to the chemicals and bacteria present in those water sources. One such bacteria found in tainted water, Acanthamoeba, causes painful keratitis and can result in blindness. Contact lenses should not be exposed to water-be it from a tap, pools or ocean water.
- Rinsing lenses in tap water (35.5%)- see above
- Extending the recommended replacement frequency of cases (82.3%) or lenses (49.9%)
- Topping off disinfecting solution (55.1%)
How to Keep your Eyes Safe this Spring Break
- Be prepared- Pack enough contact lens solution to last you the whole trip and then some, accounting for possible leaks/spills. Pack enough lenses for the vacation plus a couple of extras just in case so you will only wear them for the recommended time.
- Avoid water- Don’t expose your lenses to possible contaminated water sources. Instead, wear sunglasses on the beach to protect from harmful UV rays and consider getting prescription sunglasses for vision correction.
- Break out the glasses- Wear eyeglasses instead of contacts to protect your eyes at all times without the hassle of packing extra contacts and solutions. You should always pack a spare pair of glasses anyways in case you encounter problems with your lenses.
Not just for Contact Lens Wearers-Protect your Eyes from the Sun
Even if you don’t wear contacts your eyes are still at risk of being damaged on vacation from harmful UV rays. UV rays from the sun can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration and cancer. To prevent any of these conditions from developing it is important to protect your eyes from damaging UV rays.
- Wear sunglasses at all times when outdoors, especially when on beach vacations as the UV is stronger and the rays bounce off the water and back into eyes while swimming.
- Wear a broad-rimmed hat to provide protection from the sun and shade eyes.
If you are a contact lens wearer and are planning on heading south this March break or any time in the future remember the safety tips in this post and to be prepared. It’s not worth risking your future eye health for a moment of laziness or forgetfulness. Have fun and stay safe this Spring break and don’t forget to book your routine eye exam for when you return.