Contact Lenses in Saunas and Steam Rooms

Saunas and steam rooms provide relaxation and numerous health benefits, whether they’re an integral part of your life or an occasional indulgence. But, if you need vision correction, you may be wondering if it’s safe to wear your contacts in the sauna or steam room. The short answer from contact lens producers and opticians is that it’s safer without them. The intense heat of saunas and steam rooms can cause your lenses to dry out, while moisture from the humidity can introduce bacteria to your eyes.

Why should I not wear contacts in saunas or steam rooms?

Soft contact lenses are made from a hydrogel or silicone hydrogel material. Most lenses contain about 50% water and allow for significant amounts of oxygen to permeate. These two features, the water content and oxygen permeability, are important attributes that ensure comfort and safety, but the excessive heat from saunas and steam rooms can cause lenses to dry out and become irritated. Additionally, showers and perspiration can expose your eye to bacteria in water and sweat.

Wearing contact lenses in the sauna

Saunas are traditionally dry environments with low humidity generated by water poured on heated stones. With dry heat temperatures often exceeding 100 degrees Celsius, the biggest concern is lenses drying out and becoming irritated.

Keep in mind:
• Dry lenses allow less oxygen through to the cornea
• Dry lenses lose their shape and become uncomfortable
• Dry eyes are more vulnerable to bacteria and infection

Wearing lenses in steam rooms

A common misconception is that steam rooms, with their high humidity levels, do not cause contact lenses to dry out. In fact, the extreme heat does lead to dryness, and the moisture in the air can carry bacteria that may irritate your eyes or lead to infection.

Keep in mind:
• Steam rooms are airtight and don’t circulate air, causing increased dryness
• Dry lenses become more difficult to remove, risking injury to the cornea
• Head and brow sweat can drip into eyes causing stinging and possible infection

What’s the solution?

If you can’t go without glasses or contacts, it’s a good idea to wear daily lenses, which you can discard immediately after using the sauna or steam room. And, if you wear monthly lenses, remember to clean them extra thoroughly with solution after your spa experience. Eye drops can also provide relief for your eyes during your sauna or steam room visit. Ultimately, the best advice may be to limit time spent in these facilities to reduce your chances of eye discomfort and infection. If you notice any changes in your vision or discomfort, we recommend consulting your optometrist.


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