Do Salt Water Pools Hurt Your Eyes?

Have you ever spent a couple of hours swimming in a pool, only to find your eyes red and perhaps burning afterward? Though you may not notice the pain during swimming, it is common to experience burning and itchy eyes after coming up from the water. 

My first time swimming in a saltwater pool, I was dreading the unknown of what could happen to my eyes. After swimming for a couple of hours in my friend’s saltwater pool, I realized it was not what I expected. Here’s what I realized:

In short, saltwater pools are much more gentle on the eyes than chlorine pools. Thus, your chances of having eye irritations in a saltwater pool are greatly reduced, as opposed to swimming in a chlorine pool. This is due to the lower chlorine levels in pools treated with salt.

If you’re still wondering how this is made possible, read on! Today, we’ll explain why saltwater pools are safer for your eyes, as well as your skin and hair. Additionally, we’ll dive into the details of how to solve eye-burning after swimming for those times you take a dip in a chlorine pool.

Will Salt Water Pools Hurt My Eyes?

If you’ve ever experienced a burning sensation in your eyes after swimming in a chlorine pool, you may be hesitant to swim in a saltwater pool. After all, saltwater, especially in the ocean, is known to hurt your eyes when you first begin swimming.

Fortunately, swimming in a saltwater pool is not known to burn eyes. In fact, saltwater pools are known for being a gentle alternative to regular chlorine pools. Because the saltwater pool has a lower level of chlorine content, it is less likely to burn your eyes as opposed to chlorine pools.

In addition to being more gentle on the eyes, salt water pools are safer for those with skin sensitivities. Swimming in salt water pools is also much gentler on your hair. Once again, this is due to the low chlorine level in salt water pools.

In a nutshell, salt water pools are much safer and gentler on the body than pools filled with high levels of chlorine. Below, let’s take a closer look at the reason for this.

Why Do Salt Water Pools Not Burn Eyes?

Our human tears are made mostly from the water in our body, which contains salt ions. These salt ions have been thought of as similar to the salt concentration in saltwater pools. Because saltwater pools are much more natural than chlorine pools, they are less likely to cause eye irritation.

Another reason why saltwater pools don’t irritate eyes is the way they sanitize pools. Chlorine, as you may know, creates compounds containing harsh chemicals known to irritate eyes and skin. Saltwater, on the other hand, does not break down into chlorine, which is a byproduct of the salt. As a result, saltwater does not burn or sting eyes.

In addition to being safer for swimmers’ eyes, saltwater is known to be gentler on the hair and skin. Unlike chlorine, saltwater does not dry out the skin. Thus, many people with skin irritation choose to swim in saltwater pools instead of chlorinated pools. Similarly, saltwater does very little damage to the hair, as opposed to chlorine which may cause hair to become brittle and discolored.

In short, if you open your eyes while swimming in a saltwater pool, you shouldn’t have to suffer from burning or stinging afterward. While it is possible to experience eye irritation, the effect of saltwater should be less painful than chlorine.

How to Stop Eye Burning After Swimming

Though you may make an effort to swim only in saltwater pools, what happens when you choose to swim in chlorine pools? Because eye-burning is never a pleasant feeling, it’s important to know how to stop eyes from irritation after swimming.

The best way to stop eye-burning is by rinsing the eyes with cool, clean water. Additionally, you may apply a saline solution to your eyes or use a cold compress. If the chlorine is still irritating you, you may apply 1 to 2 drops of an artificial tear to your eyes. This should be repeated every hour for 4 to 6 hours after swimming.

If you swim with contact lenses on, be sure to remove the contact lenses immediately after swimming. Chlorine, as well as chloramines and other liquid contaminants, cannot be cleaned nor removed from contact lenses. Only resume contact lenses wear after all eye irritation symptoms are gone.

How To Prevent Eye Burning After Swimming

If you want to avoid eye-burning from occurring in the first place, there are a number of precautions to follow. One of the best ways to prevent eye irritation is to wear goggles when swimming. Goggles will prevent chlorine from entering the eyes, as well as protect your eyes from any debris. Make sure the goggles are tight against your skin before submerging yourself in the pool.

If you wear contact lenses, you should still wear goggles when swimming. Do not assume contact lenses alone will protect your eyes. Chlorine is known to damage contact lenses by changing their shape. Additionally, your contact lenses may get flushed off of your eyes during swimming. Because of this, it is important to always wear goggles.

Another preventative is to take showers prior to swimming in the pool. Because debris can cause eye irritation, showering before swimming minimizes the risk of burning in the eyes. In addition, showering will remove any lotion or skin products on your body, which can also cause eye irritation during swimming.

If you own a chlorine pool, it’s important to check pH levels on a regular basis. Though chlorine is known to cause eye irritation, it is often an improper pH balance that harms your eyes the most. Be sure you have a proper pH level, which is typically 7.4. If your pH level is any lower or higher than this, make adjustments before swimming in the pool.

Finally, if you haven’t already, consider investing in a saltwater pool. Because saltwater is much more natural and safer than chlorine, there is no need to worry about eye irritation. Even after swimming underwater, saltwater should have little effect on your eyes. Furthermore, you won’t have to worry about your skin becoming dry or your hair becoming brittle and discolored.

Jed Arnold

Jed spent every year from the ages of 15 - 22 as a Lifeguard (Red Cross) and ages of 17 - 22 as a Certified Pool Operator (CPO). Between working for over a dozen facilities and owning a pool, he carries over a decade of pool experience.

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