If you’re a wearer of contact lenses, chances are you’ve been in at least one situation where you needed to store or clean your contacts but you didn’t have access to contact lens solution, and you considered water as an alternative. You’ve probably also been tempted to open your eyes underwater while swimming or bathing. Water seems harmless, after all. You drink water, clean yourself in water, and a large portion of your body is composed of water! But can you put contacts in water?
Can You Put Contacts in Water?
When you first begin wearing contacts, you’re taught how to safely clean and store your contacts using contact solution. You may follow that rule 99% of the time but still wonder, “Can you put contacts in water?” Emergencies happen, after all, and sometimes it’s just not possible to find contact solution if you’re traveling, for example, or it’s late at night. It sounds feasible that water could make a suitable substitute for contact solution, but ask any optometrist and you’ll hear an emphatic, “No.”
The Danger of Water
So why is it so dangerous to let your contacts make contact with water?
- Most water is not sterile or germ-free. Many types of germs and microorganisms can lurk in water. For example, an ameba called Acanthamoeba is commonly found in tap water and other water sources. If it comes into contact with your eye, this germ can cause a severe eye infection that sometimes requires more than a year of treatment. In rare cases, it may necessitate a corneal transplant or cause blindness (source).
- Water can change the shape of contacts or cause them to swell or stick to the eye. Because water isn’t salty like tears, contacts can absorb it and swell. Not only will this change the way the contacts fit and likely make them uncomfortable, but also it could cause them to scratch your cornea (the transparent layer that forms the front of the eye). A corneal abrasion makes it easier for germs to enter your eye and cause a dangerous infection.
Caring for Contact Lenses
When it comes to water, there are a few rules that you should always keep in mind to ensure that your contacts are clean and your eyes remain healthy:
- Wash and dry your hands well before handling your contacts.
- Use contact solution to clean and store your contact lenses.
- Never rinse your contacts with water.
- Never store your contacts in water.
- Never use saliva to clean your contact lenses.
- To be safe, remove contact lenses before showering, swimming, or using a hot tub. If you’re actively involved in swimming or another water sport, consider purchasing prescription goggles.
- If you can’t remove your contacts before showering or swimming, do not open your eyes underwater. Wear watertight goggles to ensure water cannot reach your eyes.
- If water touches your contact lenses for any reason, take them out ASAP.
- These rules apply to bottled water, distilled water, and chlorinated water in addition to tap water.
- Carry a contact lens case and contact solution with you at all times for emergencies.
Water is not a disinfectant, and if your contact lenses make contact with water for any length of time, your eyes could become contaminated with harmful bacteria or fungi. So even in an emergency situation, you’re better off just removing your contacts and not letting them touch water.
Do you need to update your contact prescription? If you live near southwest Missouri, stop by Heffington’s. Since 1975, the Heffington family has been assisting the Springfield community with top-quality eye care and affordable eyeglasses and contacts. To learn more about our products and services, please get in touch with us online, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 417-869-3937 (Optiland location) or 417-882-3937 (House of Vision location).