With June heralding the start of the summer music season and almost 750 UK festivals planned this year, the Association of Optometrists (AOP) has issued advice for contact lens users on caring for their eyes during the festival season.
Ceri Smith-Jaynes, optometrist and AOP spokesperson, said: “Festival season is hotting up and it’s time to start thinking about lenses. With a little preparation, basic awareness and the right kit, contact lenses can be used easily and safely at festivals. Simple steps will help ensure eye infections and even more serious corneal infections - which can cause pain and scarring of the eye, permanently impairing vision - are avoided.”
Commenting on the need to keep contact lenses clean from bacteria, Ms Smith-Jaynes said: “Festival goers are likely to have a limited supply of running water, but unless you want to leave a festival early to see your optometrist, make sure you never touch your contacts, or eyes, with dirty hands. A tent is probably the best place to change lenses rather than in the festival’s public washing area, due to increased risk of infection. Use anti-bacterial wipes or gel and remember to always carry some with you, in case you need to remove your contacts mid set.
“Make sure you prepare for unusual circumstances by ensuring you have access to clean lenses; daily disposable users should bring a few spare changes. And, if you’re not using disposables, it’s a good idea to bring two storage cases, one for when you are out and about and one for back at your tent. Remember, never be tempted to store contact lenses in anything other than the sterile contact lens solution recommended by your optometrist.”
Beyond keeping contact lenses clean, a weekend of partying also creates other challenges. Ms Smith-Jaynes added: “Dehydration can play a big role in eye irritation, especially for users of contact lenses. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water, around five to seven small bottles a day, and consider contact lens rewetting drops - most festivals will allow small sealed bottles into the arena. It’s also essential, unless your contacts are specifically designed for overnight use, to take them out before going to sleep, even if it is just for a few hours. Your optometrist can advise if ‘extended wear lenses’, which can be slept in, are suitable for your eyes.”
Ms Smith-Jaynes continued: “Some festivals will throw up situations, for example swimming in a lake or taking a dip in a hot tub, that run high risks of your contact lenses coming into contact with the water born microorganism Acanthamoeba, a nasty little organism which can get trapped between your contact lens and eye and cause a serious infection. Most contact lens users will be aware of this but it can be easy to forget when on holiday. If an activity seems risky think ‘Would I do this at home?’ and, if not, either take your lenses out or avoid it. It’s always better to be safe, especially when you have an event to enjoy and you’re away from home.
“Finally if you are concerned about any discomfort on your return home, visit your local optometrist who should be your first port of call if you have any eye concerns. They can assess the problem and, if necessary, refer you to the right place for treatment. However if you have a red and painful eye, that needs immediate medical attention and you should visit the medical facilities at the festival.”
The AOP has advised on seven festival essentials for contact lens wearers:
- 1. Antibacterial gel or wipes to clean hands
- A small mirror to help put contact lenses in correctly
- Contact lens solution and two contact lens cases (if you are not using daily disposables)
- Contact lens rewetting drops, to help keep your eyes lubricated
- A bottle of drinking water to keep you hydrated
- Spare lenses in case you rip or lose your supply
- Your glasses, just in case
The Association has also produced a short top tips video for festival goers to help raise awareness of the importance of good lens wear and care. For more information about eye health, visit our For patients section.
Notes to Editors
Association of Optometrists
The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading professional membership organisation for optometrists and other optical professionals in the UK. We support our community of 16,000 plus members to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. As a founding member of the Optical Confederation we work with others to improve eye health for the public good.
Optometrists and eye health
Optometrists are eye health professionals and the services they provide are far wider than a simple test to determine whether glasses or contact lenses are required to correct vision. A sight test is not about getting a pair of glasses – it is a vital health check for your eyes.
As well as an eye health check, a sight test might detect signs of underlying general health conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Everyone should have a sight test every two years, or more often if your optometrist recommends it. Visit our For patients section for more.
Contact lenses wear and care
The festival season is a time when people may experiment with different types of zero-powered cosmetic lenses. Also known as ‘non-prescription’ or ‘plano’ lenses, cosmetic lenses are designed to change the appearance or colour of the eyes. As with all contact lenses, cosmetic lenses should only be bought from a reputable supplier. Illegal lenses may result in serious infections and cause damage to the eyes. It’s important to follow the advice given by your optometrist or optician to ensure good hygiene, handling, and wear and care of your lenses.
UV protection and contact lenses
Contact lens wearers should always wear sunglasses with the CE or British Standard mark to protect their eyes. Even if contact lenses have UV protection built in this will not protect the whole of the eye.
Upcoming UK festivals
According to the eFestivals website, it is estimated that over 750 festivals will take place in the UK this year with around 150 of these happening in June, including the Isle of Wight, Download and Glastonbury festival.