Can You Wear Contacts in a Hot Tub or Swimming Pool?

After a long day, all you want to do is dive into that beautiful pool, or take a nice relaxing soak in a hot tub. But if you wear contacts,  you’re probably wondering can you wear contacts in a hot tub or swimming pool?

I do, so I decided to investigate. Here’s what I discovered:

No, it is not safe to swim in a pool or hot tub while wearing contacts. Swimming with contact lenses in your eye can result in eye irritation, eye infections, or a corneal ulcer, which can threaten your ability to see. However, you can get prescription swim goggles.

But that’s just a quick answer.

Lots of things affect contacts aside from water. Humidity, chlorine, and other factors all affect whether or not it’s safe to soak or swim with contacts in.

So let’s explore a little deeper.

I know it can be quite a hassle to get contacts off of your eyes, especially if you’re eager to jump in and relax. Keep on reading this article to find out what you should do if you wear contacts.

We’ll even explore fresh and saltwater too!

Is it safe to wear contacts in the pool or hot tub?

No is the short answer. It is not safe to swim in a pool or hot tub while wearing contacts.

Swimming with contact lenses in your eye can result in eye irritation, eye infections, or a corneal ulcer, which can threaten your ability to see (source).

Additionally, the FDA has recommended that contacts not be exposed to any type of water, especially the chemical-filled water found in hot tubs and swimming pools. This even includes tap water, in addition to water found in lakes, oceans, rivers, and showers.

Freshwater and water in swimming pools can cause contact lenses to tighten against your eye causing significant irritation.

Contacts are also porous, which allows chemicals and bacteria to lodge inside the contact lens and press against your eye. This increases the chance of infection and irritation.

If water gets in your eyes when swimming, you should remove, clean and disinfect your contact lenses as soon as possible to reduce your risk of eye irritation and infection.

If you are really set on swimming while wearing contact lenses, then your best bet is to wear a pair of waterproof swim goggles.

These will protect your eyes from waterborne bacteria and viruses, while also reducing the risk of your contacts falling off of your eye.

But prescription swimming goggles are an even better option!

I know! Who knew there even was such a thing! Prescription goggles are custom made to correct your refractive error, just like eyeglasses or contact lenses.

This enables you to see clearly underwater without any of the risks associated with contacts.

The best place I’ve found for prescription swim goggles is A Sight for Sport Eyes. Just click that link to see all their prescription options for swimming and other sports!

Does humidity affect contact lenses?

Despite some urban myths, your lenses will not melt if you wear them on a humid day.

Hot weather shouldn’t have any significant effect on your contact lenses. A small potential side effect of warmer or humid weather is that the contact lenses may dry out quicker than usual.

If this happens, eye drops are the best way to deal with the lack of moisture.

Your eye doctor will be able to tell you which moisturizing product is best for your particular set of contact lenses. In the case of hot tubs, saunas, hot springs, or spas, it’s best to take your lenses out.

This is due to the extreme moisture and heat, more than just humidity, which may cause sweat to get in behind the lenses. In turn, this can cause an infection.

If you are wondering how long you can safely stay safe in a hot tub because of the heat, you should check out this recent article. What really surprised me was how just a small drop in temperature allows you to double your soak time!

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Can you wear contacts in salt water?

Some hot tub owners have saltwater systems (and some pools too). Or maybe you’re wondering about swimming in the ocean with contacts in?

After all, if we clean our lenses with a saline solution, isn’t that the same as saltwater?

But no is the short answer. You should not swim in ANY kind of water with contacts in. As with other types of water you might swim or soak in, bacteria can still seep through the soft lens and get between the lens and your eye.

The ocean, of course, while amazing to swim in, is not 100% pure by any means.

And hot tubs, even those treated regularly or with saltwater systems, can still harbor potentially harmful bacteria.

So as with other ways of swimming, it’s best to take them out or at least wear tight-fitting swim goggles.

Is chlorine bad for contacts?

Chlorine can cause issues if it comes into contact with contact lenses.

The lenses may absorb the chemical from the water and then cause eye irritation. It is highly recommended that you do not swim or soak with contact lenses.

That’s even truer for heavily chlorinated water.

Chlorine is basically bleach for water. Getting it in your eye is the equivalent of having diluted bleach splashed in your eyes. When chlorine goes into your eyes, it actually increases the chances of bacteria entering your eyes.

The FDA states that contact lenses touching any water at all, regardless of source, is bad. (source)

Contacts are the perfect place for bacteria to adhere to. This is because they’re moist and sticky on the surface. Your contact lenses become a band-aid for bacteria, pressing them against your already vulnerable eye.

This almost guarantees an infection.

Acanthamoeba keratitis is the bacteria to be most worried about. This infection involves an amoeba entering your eye. Their presence can create ulcers on your cornea, in addition to leading to lifelong vision impairment or even blindness.

Swimming with contacts can increase your risk of getting an amoeba in your eye. (source). In fact, that study published by the National Institutes of Health goes on to specifically state “Swimming, diving, showering or washing the face while wearing contact lenses was reported to cause Acanthamoeba keratitis”.

Of course, chlorine can be harmful in other ways too.

For starters, you should never just jump right in a hot tub after adding chlorine or bromine. How long do you have to wait? Well, it depends on a few factors, and the wait times are different for chlorine compared to bromine. Luckily, I break it all down in a recent article.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

If you have already gone swimming or soaking with contacts in, this is what you should do:

  • First, don’t panic. Lots of people likely do this every day or have at least showered with them in (guilty)
  • Take out your contact lenses immediately and throw them away
  • Flush your eyes with water
  • Use the closest eye drops you have nearby to help flush the water, bacteria, and other irritants from your eyes.

If you’re heading to the nearest Walgreens or just ordering from Amazon to have some on hand, the best eye drops to use are, of course, from Bauch and Lomb; specifically, their LUMIFY Redness Reliever Eye Drops (click to see it on Amazon).

These drops are designed specifically for “overexposure to . . . swimming in chlorinated pools”.

Hopefully, this will remove the bacteria from the pool water that entered your eyes.

Make sure your eyes aren’t still irritated before putting in a new pair of contacts. You may have to wear glasses for the rest of the day. If you have to absolutely put contacts in right away, wash your hands and face before you put them in.

This will stop the bacteria from getting on your new contact lenses.

Can you open eyes underwater with contacts?

As a human being, you are free to do anything you want. So of course, you can open your eyes underwater while wearing contacts. However, it is an extremely dangerous thing to do.

As previously stated, wearing contacts while swimming is dangerous. You risk going blind, getting an eye infection, or just irritating your eyes in general.

Chlorinated or not, you should never wear contacts while swimming or soaking in water.

You shouldn’t open your eyes underwater either. Chlorine can harm your eye, making it easier for bacteria to enter it and cause infection.

If you open your eyes underwater while wearing contacts, they may pop out. But again, with it being easy to order prescription swimming goggles online, why take the risk?

The best place I’ve found for prescription swim goggles is A Sight for Sport Eyes. Just click that link to see all their prescription options for swimming and other sports!

What happens if you wear contacts in or underwater?

When you’re an avid swimmer who also wears contacts, jumping in the pool or going in for a quick relaxing soak becomes a bit more complicated than normal.

Because there is a large risk of eye infection, it’s best to take your contacts out before you get in the pool or hot tub. However, if you choose to wear them, there are some steps you can take to ensure your eyes stay healthy.

Dangerous bacteria and other organisms can still thrive in chlorinated water.

If you open your eyes underwater while wearing contacts, these dangerous bacteria/organisms can squeeze behind your lenses and possibly infect your eye.

So to start with, you’ll have to be extra vigilant about treating and balancing your pool or hot tub water. Check it every time you get out and adjust as necessary. That way, it should still be good the next time you get in.

But, as I’ve mentioned above, keep the bacteria and organisms out of your eyes and off your contact lenses by wearing goggles.

An even better option than just wearing normal goggles is to purchase a pair of goggles that have your prescription in them. This means you won’t have to wear contacts and risk infection and eyesight loss.

You’ll be able to see underwater perfectly!

A Sight for Sport Eyes is the perfect place to get prescription swim goggles! Lots of sizes and styles available and the ease of ordering online. Plus they run specials all the time, so CLICK HERE to go to their website now and see what kind of specials they are running!

If you want to swim but you don’t want to wear goggles, make sure you choose activities that don’t involve splashing. This is so water doesn’t inadvertently end up in your eyes as you enjoy your pool or hot tub. Use relaxed swim strokes that keep your head above water at all times. Additionally, keep your eyes closed as much as possible.

If you do swim while wearing contacts, always remove them when you are done.

For daily contacts, the kind you throw away each night after use, go ahead and replace them with a new pair. For contacts that are not disposable, take them out and clean them with a cleaning solution that is recommended by your eye doctor.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about wearing contacts in a pool or hot tub and whether that is safe?

It is not safe to swim in a pool or hot tub while wearing contacts.

Swimming with contact lenses in any kind of water (even the shower) can result in eye irritation, eye infections, or a corneal ulcer, which can threaten your ability to see and cause permanent blindness.

Chlorine can cause issues if it comes into contact with contact lenses.

If you really want to swim while wearing contact lenses, then your best chance of protecting your eyes is to wear a pair of waterproof swim goggles.

An even better idea is to get prescription swimming goggles, which will allow you to see underwater without wearing contacts and risking eye infection.

Eye irritation isn’t the only health concern with hot tubs!

Dehydration is also a big concern with hot tubs. If you’re unsure of the warning signs, or how long you should soak to ensure you don’t get dehydrated, check out this recent article.

Just click that link to read it on my site.


Photos which require attribution:

Contact Lens 2 by n4i Photo is licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, hot tub lover, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market.

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