If you’re a contact lens wearer and have ever come home on a hot or cold day to find your fresh box of lenses sitting on your front porch, you may have wondered if they’re safe to wear. You’ll be happy to know the answer is yes.
A recent study tested extreme temperatures and humidity to see how hot and cold weather affect contact lenses and contact lens solution. The results showed that, as long as the packaging isn’t damaged, contacts and solutions can be used even if they’ve been exposed to very high or low temperatures.
Contacts can freeze if the temperature of the solution they’re stored in reaches about 5° Fahrenheit. If the packaging is intact, you can leave the lenses and solution out at room temperature for a few hours, and they’ll thaw out.
This study also busts some myths about contact lenses:
- No, your contact lenses can’t melt in your eyes. They can’t melt in your car, on your porch or in other high-heat places either.
- Your contacts can’t freeze in your eyes. The temperature of your corneas and your tears keeps them warm.
Tips for Wearing Contact Lenses in Hot Weather
Now that you know your contact lenses can stand the heat, here are a few things to know about wearing lenses in hot weather:
Keep Water Away From Your Contacts
It’s a good idea to take out your lenses before you swim in a pool or the ocean, soak in a hot tub, or take a shower. Wearing your contacts in the water can irritate your eyes and lead to an infection.
One rare but particularly nasty water-related infection is acanthamoeba keratitis, which often starts with improper lens handling. If untreated, it can lead to severe pain, possible vision loss and/or blindness. If you must wear your lenses while swimming, put on a pair of goggles first.
Keep Your Eyes Sweat-Free
If sweat drips into your eyes, it can get between your contact and your eye and can cause an eye infection.
Protect Your Eyes When You’re Outside
People tend to spend more time outdoors when the weather is warm. This increases exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. You can protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses or contact lenses with UV protection.
Tips for Wearing Contact Lenses in Cold Weather
Cold weather presents its own challenges for contact lens wearers, so follow these tips to help ensure that your eyes are safe and comfortable during colder months:
Fight Dry Eye
Humidity is lower in the fall and winter, making it more likely that your tears will evaporate, and your eyes will be dry. Keep eye drops that are safe to use with contacts or artificial tears on hand to restore your eyes’ moisture.
Drink Plenty of Water
Water keeps your eyes hydrated so they can produce the tears that supply moisture to your eyes.
Avoid Direct Heat Sources
Furnace vents, car vents, and fireplaces are sources of direct heat that can cause dry eyes and irritation. Try not to get too close to direct heat, and consider getting a humidifier to help your eyes stay moist.
Protect Your Eyes
You need eye protection outside in cold weather too. Sunglasses or goggles can protect your eyes from UV rays and prevent harsh winds from drying out your eyes.
Don’t Wear Contact Lenses if You’re Sick
If you have a cold — especially if your eyes are puffy, red, or irritated in any way — you shouldn’t wear contacts. You could transfer the infection to your eyes when putting in or taking out your contact lenses.
Switch to Glasses
If cold weather is causing eye problems, wear your glasses instead of your contacts. It’s also a good idea to get an eye exam from your eye doctor if you are having eye problems so they can treat any eye or vision issues.
How To Wear Contact Lenses Comfortably Year Round
You wear your contacts every day. These tips can help make sure they’re comfortable and don’t negatively impact your eye health:
Take Care of Your Lenses the Right Way
Properly clean and store your contact lenses, and change them out according to the manufacturer’s (and your eye care provider’s) recommended schedule.
Consider Daily Disposable Lenses
Daily disposable contact lenses can help reduce the chance that you’ll develop problems, such as eye irritation and infections.
Take a Break From Contacts
Sometimes harsh weather conditions can irritate your eyes no matter what you do. If this happens, give your eyes a rest by wearing your glasses instead your contacts. You can even plan to wear your glasses for only a few hours a day. Your eyes will appreciate even the short break.
Don’t Wear Your Contacts to Bed
As tempting as it may be, wearing your contact lenses to bed isn’t a good idea. Sleeping in your contacts can increase the risk that you’ll develop an eye infection.
Get Enough Sleep
Your eyes heal themselves as you sleep (another reason not to sleep in your contact lenses). Not getting enough sleep can cause dry, itchy, or bloodshot eyes. It can also lead to light sensitivity and blurry vision. Your eyes may also produce fewer tears with lack of sleep, which can result in an eye infection.
When it comes to handling harsh weather, contact lenses are virtually indestructible. But if something doesn’t look or feel right with your lenses, check with your eye care provider to be sure they’re safe to wear.