If your t-shirt isn’t keeping you warm you can always throw on a sweater. If the boots you’re wearing are too hot and heavy you can always change into trainers or sandals. But regardless of the weather, you don’t have many options when it comes to your contact lens. They are what they are and you either wear them or you don’t. Most of the time contact wearers won’t experience any problems. But in certain cases, the weather and other environmental conditions can affect how comfortable your contacts feel.
Is it the Weather or the Contact Lenses?
The contacts themselves are almost never the cause of weather-related discomfort. Instead, the discomfort is the result of temperature, humidity or other factors that cause the eyes themselves to become irritated. That said when your eyes become irritated it can make wearing contacts less comfortable than it normally is. So how do various weather conditions affect your eyes and their relationship to your contacts?
Cold Dry Weather
Cold winter air is typically much drier than hot summer air. As such, any part of our anatomy (including our eyes) that comes in regular contact with this cold dry air is going to be affected. Because of the extremely dry air that prevails during the winter months, people should drink more water than they do for the rest of the year. But because people don’t often sweat during winter they tend to think hydration is not as big an issue as it is during the summer. Consequently, they drink less water. Mistake.
Dry eyes created by a combination of cold air and dehydration are going to make contacts feel uncomfortable. But again, it’s not the fault of the contacts, which are usually unaffected by the weather. It’s almost always a result of the wearer not drinking enough water and becoming dehydrated. This phenomenon can also result in the wearer being more conscious of the contacts. Although again, it’s because their eyes are dry, not because of the contacts themselves.
Hot Summer Weather
Hot summer weather presents its own set of challenges for contact wearers. These challenges tend to take 4 primary forms:
- Pools - If the mercury is pushing triple digits a dip in the pool can be an extremely inviting proposition. But it’s not one without risks for contact wearers. Contact lenses are designed to be surrounded by a solution with a certain pH and salt level. The chlorinated water in the pool, however, is usually pretty high in salt which affects the nature of the contact between the lens and the eye. As a result, your eyes can begin to feel sore, dry and uncomfortable. Wearing goggles can sometimes prevent this.
- Freshwater swimming - The opportunity to take a dip in a freshwater lake during the summertime is also hard to resist. But if you wear contacts you should think long and hard before doing it. You see, freshwater lakes are teeming with the kind of bacteria that you won’t find in manmade pools. That’s because the backyard pool is full of chlorine that kills these types of microorganisms. In a freshwater pond or lake, there are no checks on bacteria. As a result, different bacteria in the water may adhere to the surface of your contact lens. Once they do they then work their way into the eye and cause infection. Again, goggles will likely help. Some also recommend using disposable contacts (Silicone Hydrogel) that you use once and discard as soon as you emerge from the water. That way the bacteria doesn’t have time to worm their way into your eyes.
- Air conditioning - Air conditioning has made formerly unbearable summer heat and humidity bearable. The modern world simply would not be what it is without AC. However, one reason air conditioning feels so good is that it removes most of the sticky moisture from the air. That’s great from a liveability standpoint but not so great for the relationship between your eyes and your contacts. Everywhere you go your eyes are being bombarded by cool dry air. If you find that air conditioning is negatively affecting the comfort of your contacts there are moisturizing eye drops made specifically to help restore hydration to your eyes. In addition, drinking plenty of water will help keep your eyes moist just as it does during the winter.
- Sunscreen - This is one most people don’t think about until it happens to them. In this case “it” is when sweat from your brow mixes with sunscreen you applied and winds up seeping into your eyes. Once in your eyes, it works its way behind the contact lens. This combination of salty sweat and the chemicals from the sunscreen can produce a very unpleasant feeling that will end up requiring you to remove and clean your contacts and flush your eyes out thoroughly with clean water. Solutions to this problem typically involve wearing a cap or visor to protect your forehead instead of using sunscreen or finding a “natural” sunscreen that uses titanium dioxide or zinc oxide rather than some harsh artificial chemical.
Dry Dusty Weather
If you live in an arid climate with lots of dust in the air chances are you’re going to experience a great deal of discomfort from your monthly contact lenses. The reason for this should be obvious: dust that enters your eyes will make them raw and irritated. If any of that dust manages to get behind your contacts it acts like sandpaper on your eyes, making any irritation even worse. There are steps you can take to mitigate the effects of dry, dusty weather, however. First, sunglasses often help keep blowing dust (at least most of it) out of your eyes. In addition, you should remove and clean your contacts every couple of hours and give your eyes a short break if possible before putting them back in.
Remember: It’s not the contact lenses that create these problems, it’s dehydration, outside chemicals, dust, debris, bacteria and more. Take the above tips to heart, however, and you should be fine.