Contact Lenses when travelling abroad

Millions of people enjoy the convenience of contact lenses, but many don’t look after them as well as they should. Continuing these bad habits whilst travelling abroad will only increase the risk of eye infection.

There are two main types of contacts: soft lenses and rigid gas-permeable. Depending on your prescription, your lenses can be either disposable, reusable or extended-wear. There is no guarantee that your specific lenses can be easily replaced away from home so looking after them is particularly important.

Travelling with contact lenses

Regardless of your lens type, it is essential that you wash, rinse and thoroughly dry your hands before handling your lenses. Many soaps contain perfumes, oils or lotions that can be easily transferred from your hands to your lenses and cause eye irritation. After washing your hands, always check for fluff or lint from towels or clothing before touching your lenses as even the smallest fleck can damage your lenses, impair your vision and irritate your eyes.

It’s also a very good idea to keep a pair of glasses for when you remove, run out or even lose your lenses and, especially if you’re wearing new or different contacts, to keep the lens packet and batch number in case they cause a bad reaction.

Unlike reusable lenses, disposable lenses need no cleaning or disinfecting as they are designed to be used once and once only. Ensure you have enough disposable lenses and/or matching prescription glasses for your trip and do not reuse them as the materials used in disposable lenses cannot be effectively cleaned and will significantly increase the risk of an eye infection.

Extended-wear contact lenses

Extended-wear lenses are just that; lenses designed to be worn continuously, including over night if advised, for up to a month. Whilst being more convenient that daily lenses it can be all too easy to forget to remove or replace extended-wear lenses, especially if you’re away from the routines of home and the increased wearing time can increase the risk of irritation and further problems so more frequent check ups with your doctor are a good idea.

Although extended-wear lenses are still disposable, it is more than likely that you will remove and replace them at some point. Therefore, many of the guidelines that apply to cleaning and maintaining reusable lenses are just as important for extended-wear lenses.

Cleaning your lenses

Upon removing your lenses they must be disinfected to avoid the build-up of potentially harmful organisms. Lenses are disinfected by soaking them in solution in a clean storage case, never reuse disinfecting solution, dilute or top it up; it must be replaced with fresh solution each and every time you store your lenses.

Although carrying around solution might seem like a drag, it should never be transferred to smaller containers as they almost certainly won’t be sterile and under no circumstances should you rinse or store your lenses in tap water or clean them with your saliva as neither are sterile and can lead to serious infections.

It’s a good idea to remove your contacts before bathing, showering and swimming for similar reasons. Although it might seem obvious, if a lens looks different, damaged or torn, don’t risk putting it in your eye and never wear contact lenses that belong to somebody else. It’s easy to forget about them, but lens storage cases can also easily lead to infection if not cleaned properly. They must be cleaned weekly with lens disinfectant solution, thoroughly rinsed and air dried after every use and fully replaced monthly.

A helpful way to keep up with your lens hygiene when travelling is to always ask yourself whether your eyes look healthy, feel healthy and can see well. If your answer to every question isn’t yes or you aren’t sure, take out your lenses straight away and get in contact with a practitioner.

TripMedic can find you a qualified professional close to you who can offer you help and advice in your own language.

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