Dr Susan Blakeney, Clinical Adviser at the College of Optometrists, shares advice for festival-goers on wearing contact lenses safely.
Contact lenses and prescription glasses are probably never more important than at festivals, when you may find yourself at the very back of a crowd and straining to see the act on stage. However a long stint camping in a field isn’t exactly the best environment in which to use your contacts, hygiene is probably compromised and mirrors are not always easily accessible.
But with the right preparation, contact lenses can be used safely and easily at festivals. Here’s some simple advice you can follow:
Disposable lenses: If you have access to them, it may be easiest to use daily disposable lenses, as it will mean you won’t need to clean and disinfect the lenses after each use. If you do use daily disposables, make sure you remember to take them out at the end of the day – you should never sleep in your contacts unless you’ve been specifically advised you can do so by your practitioner.
Non-disposable lenses: If you are wearing non-disposable contact lenses, including novelty lenses, you must make sure that you clean them thoroughly after each use and disinfect them with the recommended contact lens solution. Never use tap water, the wrong solution, or lick them – and if they drop on the floor don’t simply pop them back in!
Clean hands: It’s very important that your hands are clean before you handle your lenses. Usually we recommend that you wash your hands and dry them thoroughly before touching your eyes or lenses, but if this is not possible use anti-bacterial hand gel before you attempt to put your contacts in. Make sure the hand gel has dried thoroughly on your hands before you touch your eyes or your lenses.
Don’t swap: Don’t share contact lenses with your friends, as even quickly trying them on may lead to an eye infection.
Novelty lenses: Unlike standard contact lenses, novelty lenses are not tailored to your eyes, which can increase the risk of eye health issues. Lenses that are not properly fitted may scratch your eye, cause the eye to go red or your cornea to swell up. Don’t wear any contact lenses that have not been fitted by a qualified professional, no matter how fun their pattern – they may not be safe to wear and you could permanently injure your eye.
Sun protection: It’s very important to protect your eyes when out in the sun. You’ll undoubtedly be spending a long time outdoors, so make sure you wear good quality sunglasses when the sun comes out. They needn’t be expensive, but look out for glasses carrying the “CE” mark which ensures the sunglasses offer a safe level of UV protection.
Eye drops: These will keep your eyes lubricated and comfortable, so it may be helpful to carry some in your festival backpack. You can get eye drops as individual units, so you just open a vial, use the drop in one or both eyes and then discard it. Make sure you get drops that are safe to use whilst wearing contact lenses.
If you experience any eye discomfort during or after wearing any type of contact lens, you should seek advice from the on-site medical specialist.