Eye Infections Increase In Summer Floods: Precautions and Tips

Image via arkansas.gov

In light of the recent flooding in the Midwest that has disrupted lives and endangered public health, the American Optometric Association (AOA) has published a list of reminders and precautions related to eye care, particularly for those contact lens wearers out there.  Their particular concerns involve the proliferation of water born pathogens such as amoeba, parasites, bacteria and viruses which can be responsible for eye infections.  Eye doctors have seen an increase in eye infections in areas of flood stricken Iowa.


These precautions and recommendations are also great reminders for contact wearers who are traveling or outside enjoying summer recreation and may not have easy access to fresh water and clean facilities.

According to the AOA:

  • Avoid contact with flood waters. If contact cannot be avoided, remove contact lenses prior to exposure to water. If contact lenses are unavoidable, wear goggles.
  • Don’t assume treated tap water is safe. Avoid using tap water to wash or store contact lenses or contact lens cases.
  • Always wash and dry hands before touching the eye or handling contact lenses. Use hand disinfectant frequently.
  • Use only sterile products recommended by your optometrist to clean and disinfect lenses. Saline solution and rewetting drops are not designed to disinfect lenses.
  • Only fresh solution should be used to clean and store contact lenses. Never re-use old solution. Contact lens solution must be changed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, even if the lenses are not used daily.
  • Rub and rinse the surface of the contact lens before storing using a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contact lens disinfecting solution.
  • Store lenses in the proper lens storage case and replace the case at least every three months. Clean the case after each use by rubbing each well for at least 5 seconds, rinse with contact lens disinfecting solution, then wipe with a clean cloth. Store the case upside down with caps off between cleanings.
  • Contact lens wearers who regularly sleep in contact lenses as prescribed should refrain from doing so if exposed to water
  • Replace lenses using your doctor’s prescribed schedule.
  • Never put contact lenses in the mouth or moisten them with saliva, which is full of bacteria and a potential source of infection.
  • Never use contacts that have not been prescribed by an eye doctor. Never wear lenses prescribed for another person. Contact lens wearing is not an option for everyone; consult with an optometrist to see if contact lenses are an appropriate choice for vision correction.

Symptoms to watch for:

If you experience any of the following conditions, contact your optometrist immediately:

  • Red and irritated eyes lasting for an unusually long period of time after lens removal
  • Pain in and around the eyes especially if it progressively worsens
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Sudden blurred or fuzzy vision
  • Excessive eye tearing or discharge