Red eyes after swimming? CDC blames urine, not chlorine

(WSAV) — The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Healthy Swimming Program shared some eye-opening insight into swimming pools.

A campaign shows the smell of what many people think is chlorine, is actually the smell of chemicals as the chlorine mixes with urine, feces, sweat, and dirt.

And the eyes can show it.

“It causes extreme dryness to the eyes and also the chemicals cause a chemical allergy to the eyes,” says Optometrist Mel Gehrig.

Doctor Gehrig says he sees lots of red eyes this time of year, but it’s not always the pool to blame.

“The main two causes of red eyes most of the time and more during the summer is dry eyes and allergy eyes.”

According to Doctor Gehrig, summer allergens occur year-round in the Deep South.

“It usually comes in three to four times. Every time we see a change in leaves and a new growing time. October is a bad time. June is a bad time, May and June is a bad time.”

So what about the pool water?

How can you know that it’s not going to burn your eyes or turn them red?

The CDC says healthy pools and waterparks don’t have a strong chemical smell.

Dr. Gehrig says he trusts that if pH and disinfectant levels are appropriate, the urine and feces chemical mix won’t be problematic.

“Hopefully not. Probably more fiction than fact. The chlorine kind of does it all for it, plus there’s not enough.”

If you are going swimming, add goggles to your swimming attire. And Doctor Gehrig says artificial tears with lubrication can ease any allergic irritation.

The CDC recommends you ask to see a pool’s inspection results if you are concerned about its safety.

If you own a pool, use test strips to check chemical levels. And if you have a child in a swim diaper or swim pants, be aware that those do not stop germs from getting into the water.

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