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Contacts in Winter: What to be Aware Of

Simple Contacts

As winter sets in, first time contact wearers may dream nightmares about lenses sticking to their eye like a kid’s tongue to an icicle.  Should you be worried about your contacts freezing?

We’ll answer this and four other common questions about the cold to put your mind at ease and provide some guidance for wearing your contacts this winter.

Will my contacts freeze in my eyes?

Only if you expect to encounter temperatures of negative 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  That’s around the coldest recorded temperature seen in the Arctic.  So, no.  There is no danger of your contacts freezing to your eyes. 

Scientific experiments were carried out in the 80’s confirming that this was an impossibility.  Lenses have only grown more resilient since then.

While It may feel like your skin temperature is dropping in extremely cold weather, your face and eye still put off a lot of heat that keeps your contacts warm.  Also, your tear film has more ingredients to it than simple water, enhancing the protective effect.

Why do my contacts feel drier than normal?

This is a legitimate and common concern.  Cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air.  This contributes to winter being the driest season of the year. 

This dry air in turn extracts more moisture from your eye.  Those who have no problems with their contacts in summer months may experience some dryness and discomfort in the winter.

Fortunately, you have ways to fight back against the winter cold to keep your eyes moist and healthy:

  • Have eyedrops or artificial tears on hand for when you’re feeling dry
  • Be wary of indoor heating since it tends to be even dryer than the cold outdoors
  • Drink lots of water to keep your body hydrated
  • Give your eyes an occasional break and remove your lenses earlier in the evening
  • Rotate your lenses to keep them fresh
  • Get good sleep at night

Will my contacts freeze as they’re getting shipped?

While contacts will not freeze on your eye, they have been known to freeze while shipping or siting on your porch.  Fortunately, this is not a problem.

If your pack of lenses have frozen, they will remain undamaged as long as they remain sealed.  Manufacturers ship your lenses in a solution which keeps them safe and sterile.  Store your frozen contacts in a space at room temperature to let them thaw. 

Given enough patience, your frozen lenses will return to their normal state of comfort and safety.  However, try not to store them in excessive warmth.  Strong heat could affect the chemical balance in the lenses which could lead to negative wearing experiences. 

Once thawed, rinse your lenses in a saline solution and they will be ready to go.

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Do I still need to wear sunglasses in the winter?

We should note at the outset that you should never wear prescription sunglasses with your contacts.  That can cause eye strain and headaches.

Non-prescription sunglasses, however, can save you a lot of strain and headache if worn on a bright snowy day.

While we normally think about UV rays while sunbathing, they are still very present during the winter.  It is recommended that you wear some sort of UV protection on a bright winter day, especially if you spend an extended time snowboarding or skiing. 

If you do find yourself having pain or discomfort after long exposure to bright snow, we recommend taking a break from your contacts.  It will hopefully heal in a couple days but check with optician for a full diagnosis and medication to ease the pain.

Should I wear Contacts if I am sick?

If the winter cold or flu finds you, we recommend taking a break from your contacts.

For one thing, you should be getting a lot of rest to recover.  Grogginess and the disruption to your normal routine could lead you to fall asleep with your contacts still in.  Most contacts are not designed to be slept in and can lead to discomfort and damage to your eyes.

The increased amount of bacteria associated with being sick puts you at greater risk of contaminating your lenses.  This can in turn put you at greater risk of eye infection.

If you have any further questions beyond the five above, our introduction to contact lenses or our guide to lens care may answer your non-winter questions.

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Valid for new customers only.