Swimming, swimming-in an indoor pool or out in the glorious sun, it’s a day filled with fun.

But unfortunately for many people, if they ARE in a pool, once they get out they suffer from bloodshot eyes.


Most of us think this is the result of our eyes coming in contact with too much chlorine. The chemical is pumped in to keep things clean, and we feel that some days, the pool attendant overdoes it.

But what if you learned blood shot swimming eyes were actually being caused by urine?

Pretty gross, but apparently true. A study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes that blood shot eyes resulting from swimming are caused by the mix of chlorine with urine, in swimming pools.

Chlorine binds with all things it’s trying to kill in the water, and that includes urine and sweat, the study reports.

Toxicologist Alfred Bernard from the University of Leuven, Belgium, explains it all:

“Urine itself is just like any other body fluids not harmful for your skin and eyes. But once the urine comes into contact with chlorine it will react with urea, a component within sweat and urine, which creates so-called chloramines.”

Chloramine_DiagramIt’s the chloramines in the water that cause your eyes to go red from exposure.

And it’s not just red, irritated eyes that result from having them in pool water.

According to Chris Wiant, chair of the US Water Quality and Health Council, things can get worse.

Those chloramines at an indoor pool can also create poisonous gases that can cause damage to your lungs, heart, and nervous system.

“That ‘chlorine’ smell at the pool isn’t actually chlorine,” Wiant is quoted as saying in an article at independent.co.uk. “What you smell are chemicals that form when chlorine mixes with pee, sweat and dirt from swimmers’ bodies, (the chloramines).”

Can you avoid them? Maybe if you swim in a lake, or wear goggles, but generally, no.

If you need to be in a pool, here are some simple steps you can take to try to ease the pain:

Rinse your eyes in cool water to cleanse them after swimming. Use eye drops that are made of a saline solution to help lubricate sore eyes back to health.

If things are really irritated, consider some good old fashioned remedies such as placing slices of cucumbers on your eyes while you lie down, piling on the potato gratings, or using a cool, damp cloth.



These solutions aren’t guaranteed to provide a complete fix but they can help bring your eyes back to normal a bit faster.

What’s the moral of the story?

As Michele Hlavsa, chief of the US Center for Disease Control’s Healthy Swimming Program says, “The solution isn’t rocket science; it’s common courtesy. Swimmers should use the pool to swim, the restroom to pee and the showers to wash up before getting in the pool. It’s that simple.”

Find a swimming hole that’s a little cleaner next time, if you can. If you can’t, hopefully your fellow swimmers will follow Hlavsa’s advice.