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Can you Open your Eyes in the Ocean? Salt Water and Chlorine Irritation Fix

It’s always fun taking a swim either in the sea or swimming pool and yet, after you’re done, your eyes may turn red and even blurry owing to the salt and other irritants in the water. While it may take a while for the eyes to clear up on their own, you can speed up the process by using simple techniques wherever you are.

Yes! You can open your eyes in the ocean or swimming pool. However, you need to clear out the irritants from your eyes through simple procedures such as flushing with clean water, moisturizing your eyes, using a cold compress and many others.

Besides that, you can simply protect your eyes with swimming goggles or avoid unhealthy pools to keep your eyes healthy.

With salty or chlorinated water, you may have blurry vision for a while. However, this goes away after a short while and especially when you take some of the measures below.

However, if it persists or is accompanied by other symptoms such as abnormal pain, you may need to see a doctor since it could be a serious problem.

What Causes Eye-Irritation in the Sea and Pool?

Naturally occurring salt in sea water and chlorine and other chemicals will irritate the soft membranes of your body such as the eyes and, at times, the skin.

While it’s assumed that only salts and chlorine are in the water, a lot of other chemicals build up with time. The sea has chemicals from households and factories while pools build up chloramides.

salty ocean water
Sea water

The result is that these chemicals come into the delicate and sensitive membranes of the eyes and the skin. The good news is, unless they’re very concentrated, the itch and redness of the eyes will eventually go away on their own.

How to Fix Chlorine and Saltwater Irritation

There are various ways you can get rid of the irritation. The aim is to eliminate any acidic, basic or generally irritating substances from your eyes. The reason for these fixes is to eliminate the chemicals from the eyes and soothe the pain away.

The remedies are as follows:

1. Rinse with cold water

The reason your eyes are hurting and turning red is due to the presence of foreign items. They may be salts and chlorine or others but your first step should be eliminating them. The fastest way to do so is to pour cold water into the eyes.

The water should be just about room temperature since it has the best soothing effect. You simply bend over a sink then gently splash the water into your eyes. Fresh soft water is the preferred option as well. You then dry the area around the eyes with a towel and you’re good to go.

Ensure that the water actually goes inside the eyes for this to work. At also helps blinking a few times to spread the water in the whole eye.

2. Soothe with milk

While not based on any scientific research, milk has been known for a while to soothe irritations be they outside the body or inside. This also works for your eyes as milk will dissolve and wash away any chemicals that are affecting your eyes.

For this method, about two drops of milk in each eye will be enough. You can use a dropper or a spoon. Close your eyes then roll them in their sockets to spread the milk around. It’ll soothe and neutralize the chemicals in a short while.

You should preferably use fresh milk for this procedure. If the irritation persists or increases, you should revert to water as described above.

3. Moisturize with a saline solution

Your tears are a saline solution and they keep your eyes moist and eliminate dirt as well. When your eyes get irritated and itchy after a swim, it means that they’ve become dry and need moisturizing.

Adding in a few drops of saline solution restores the moist nature of the your eyes and will do away with the irritation.

Saline solutions can be found in shops and drugstores at a very cheap price. Don’t make the mistake of thinking because it’s called a saline solution it means it’s water with salt and make your own. You’ll only make the problem worse.

Some of the best eye drops for this purpose include:

  • NanoTears MXP Forte
  • Systane Ultra
  • NanoTears TF
  • Refresh Optive Advanced
  • TheraTears

These are good over-the-counter solutions for restoring the moisture in your eyes.

4. Rinse and moisturize with a baking soda solution

Most of the chemicals in the water are acidic in nature. Elementary school science teaches us that mixing a base with an acid does away with both. Basically, you get salt and water which is easier to deal with.

You can mix a ¼ teaspoon of baking soda with a ½ glass of water. You then use a cotton ball soaked in the solution then squeeze it over the eyes. Blink like in the steps above to spread the mix in your eyes.

If the irritation persists or gets worse, simply rinse with water like in the first remedy.

5. Soothe with wet teabags

Tea naturally helps do away with inflammation owing to its anti-inflammatory properties. You can harness the same properties to soothe your irritated eyes.

Dip two bags in cold water then place them on your closed eyes while lying on your back. Feel the cold teabags until you feel they’ve warmed up to room temperature.

If you still feel irritated, soak the teabags in cold water and repeat the process. You can do this as many times as you wish till you feel okay.

You should combine this procedure with flushing the eyes with a saline solution or cold water. This is because it does away with the pain but doesn’t clear your eyes of the irritants.

6. Use a cold compress

Simple cold water on a piece of cloth can also help you do away with the pain in your eyes. Again, it’s a procedure that should be combined with a flushing procedure to eliminate the chemicals from the eyes first.

Simply soak a piece of cloth in cold water, wring out some of it then place the cloth over your eyes as you lie on your back. After a while, repeat the procedure until your eyes are soothed enough.

You may also wrap ice cubes in a piece of cloth then put it over your eyes for the same effect. The advantage is that you’ll have a longer soothing effect from ice than from a pice of cloth.

7. Soothe with cucumber slices

Another clever way is to use cucumber slices to soothe the eyes. They’re a procedure that will first need flushing the eyes with a solvent such as water, milk or saline solution beforehand.

Cucumbers are succulent and retain a lot of the liquid while keeping the temperature low for longer. The juice from a cucumber doesn’t irritate the eyes as well.

Simply cut two medium sized slices from a cucumber then place them over your eyes while on your back. After they get warm, cut other slices and repeat till your eyes are soothed enough.

8. Soothe with an aloe vera compress

Another natural anti-inflammatory agent is aloe vera. While it’s used directly on wounds, you’ll not be putting it directly into your eyes for this case. In fact, you’ll be using aloe vera gel rather than the juice directly from the plant.

Take a teaspoon of aloe vera gel then mix with a teaspoon of cold water. Soak two balls of cotton in the mix until they soak up the whole of it. Place the balls on your closed eyes then lie on your back until you feel relief in your eyes. Rinse the eyes to get rid of any remaining solution.

9. Soothe with grated potato

Potatoes also contain anti-inflammatory properties which enables them do away with the pain you may have on any part of the body. You don’t need their juice. Rather, you use them like cucumber slices in the above remedy.

The best way to do this is to grate tiny pieces of the potato then directly apply them on your closed eyes. Let them sit there for a short while (5-10 minutes) then take them off and wash the remnants from your eyes.

The assumption here is that you’d already have flushed your eyes before this procedure. If you still feel irritated, grate another piece of the potato and repeat the process.

10. Soothe with a gel mask

If you swim a lot and can’t have all the above items in your house, we recommend that you buy yourself a gel mask. It looks like a pair of skiing googles but, in the place of pieces of glass/plastic, you have pockets of gel.

The gel mask is to be kept in the fridge and taken out when you need to soothe your eyes after a swim. You first need to rinse your eyes with cold water then put the gel mask on your face for about 5 minutes at a time.

11. Use swimming goggles

One way of avoiding the problems caused by the saline or chlorinated water is to use swimming goggles. These keep the water out of your eyes and allow you swim as much as you want without having to deal with red and blurry eyes later on.

outdoor swimming pool with chlorinated water
Outdoor pool

Ensure you get glasses that fit your eyes perfectly. This means they don’t let water get to your eyes as you swim. They shouldn’t, however, hurt you as they’ll distract you from your swimming.

Given that swimming goggles are quite cheap, this is simply the best way to deal with irritating pools and seawater.

12. Choose your swimming locations wisely

You should avoid swimming in lakes and rivers that seem to be unsafe for your body in general. If you see a ‘no swimming’ sign around a pool, pond or lake, simply keep off as it’s a sign that the water could be contaminated.

Avoid any water bodies that are stagnant. That includes ponds or swimming pools that don’t have active inlets and outlets. Stagnant water easily breeds bacteria and other harmful microorganisms that can harm you way beyond simply irritating you.

Some water bodies may be contaminated with chemicals due to being dumped with factory wastes or being close to a chemical plant where waste unintentionally seeps into the water body.

While the water may appear to be clear, it may be highly hazardous. For example, water bodies near farmland may have E. Coli even when they appear clear and clean.

Avoid going into swimming pools that have a strong chemical smell. While most people think that’s the smell of chlorine, it’s something worse. In fact, chlorine has no recognizable smell.

That strong ammonia-like smell is a smell of dirt in the water. The dirt is a mix of saliva, urine, body lotion, sunscreen, sweat and other things not supposed to be in a pool. It may make the water deeply blue or cloudy especially when there’s no active inlet and outlet from the water.

Lastly, water bodies with a green hue are among the most dangerous. The algae, which is often responsible for the green color, may not exist alone but with other dangerous microorganisms.

In a nutshell…

While it’s highly unlikely that you’ll swim in a pool or sea with radioactive materials, you need to stay safe at all times. While opening your eyes under water isn’t a problem, keep it to the minimum or use goggles for the swimming. If you’ve already swam without googles, use the methods above to eliminate the chemicals from your eyes.

The same goes for your body. You should take a shower as soon as you step outside the swimming pool and before you dry up. This gives the chemicals very little time on your body.

If after a swim you notice any unusual signs such as drowsiness or swollen areas on your skin, you’ll need to immediately see a doctor as it may be a sign of an infection.

Further Reading

Following is a list of articles with more swimming information and other water sports

Swimming FAQs & Ideas

Swimming Strokes/Styles

Swimming Accessories

Pool Exercises

Other Water Sports