It’s estimated that over 150 million people worldwide wear contact lenses. Most people wear contacts to correct impaired vision, but many others do so for aesthetic reasons such as wearing artificially colored lenses.
It’s difficult to imagine a life without contacts, but they are actually a very recent invention. Although Leonardo da Vinci contemplated the idea back in the 15th century, it took another 500 years for disposable soft lenses like those offered by Contactlenses.com.au to hit the market.
Unlike eyeglasses, contact lenses make activities like playing sports, snorkeling, and simply wearing sunglasses much easier for those with eyesight problems. We contact lens wearers can, however, run into a few annoyances when flying.
Airplanes present an environment that isn’t the most ideal place for wearing contacts. However, there are several tips you can follow that will allow you to continue wearing your contacts while flying, without suffering from dry and irritated eyes.
If you also wear contacts, check out my top recommendations for things you should do the next time you’re flying.
Tips for Flying With Contact Lenses
Make Sure Your Prescription is Up to Date
It’s always a good idea to book an eye appointment before you plan to travel, in order to check your vision and the health of your eyes.
Your eye doctor will be able to see if there are any serious issues that could impact you during your travels. Booking an eye appointment becomes even more necessary if you are planning a long-duration trip like a European backpacking adventure or gap year.
You’ll want to make sure to carry your contact lens prescription with you in case you happen to lose your supply of lenses while travelling, and having your optometrist’s contact details isn’t a bad idea either in case you run into eye problems abroad and need assistance. Your optometrist knows your eye health history better than any foreign doctor will.
Be sure to order more than enough contact lenses that you will require during your trip. Contacts are both lightweight and won’t take up hardly any space in your luggage, so pack plenty of extras.
If you plan to be traveling to drier climates, you may want to ask your optometrist about the possibility of temporarily switching to an extra moist variety of contacts. These may also be a more comfortable option to combat the dry environment that is present on airplanes.
It’s also important to pack your favorite and most trusted contact lens cleaning and storage solution in case it isn’t available where you are travelling.
Pack Contacts and Contact Lens Supplies in Your Carry-on Luggage
You’ll want to pack your spare contacts, lens solution, and any other contact supplies you require in your carry-on bag. Checked bags often get abused and lost so it’s not worth taking the risk not being able to see clearly without your contacts during your trip.
Pack your contacts in a hard durable case since the packaging that contacts come in isn’t all that durable and other items in your carry-on bag could end up damaging them if they are not protected.
While most airlines and airports now consider contact lens solution to be a medically necessary liquid, meaning they don’t enforce the same size restrictions on lens solution as other liquids, it’s a good idea to pack a travel-sized lens solution just in case.
However, I should note that you should never attempt to create your own travel-sized lens solution by pouring solution from its original bottle to an empty bottle of some sort. Your empty bottle may not be sterile and you could run the risk of your solution becoming contaminated which could lead to an eye infection.
If you’re travelling for a long period of time and want to bring several larger bottles of lens solution, you may want to pack these in your checked luggage. Just make sure to pack only sealed bottles and place them in a Ziploc bag in case the bottles are punctured or leak during the journey.
Avoid Falling Asleep on the Plane While Wearing Your Contacts
While your daily routine may see you diligently remembering to take out your contacts before you go to bed, it’s easy to forget this step when travelling on a plane.
Falling asleep while wearing contacts is never a good idea. This can lead to severe eye irritation and potential damage to your eyes like getting microscopic tears in your cornea. The last thing you want is a problem with your eyes at 30,000 feet with hours before you are scheduled to land.
While it may be easy to remain awake during short domestic flights, things can get tricky while on long-haul international flights. At times when you must sleep on a plane, be sure to have your contact lens case and solution ready when it comes time to nestle in to your seat and close your eyes.
I would also advise not using the plane’s bathroom to remove your contacts despite it having a mirror which may be helpful to some people. It’s even less sanitary in the bathroom and any turbulence could see you dropping a lens down the sink or worse yet on the bathroom floor.
To combat the excessively-dry environment found in airline cabins, pack a small bottle of re-wetting drops like those made by Refresh Contact Eye Drops. These will help relieve dryness associated with wearing contact lenses without negatively affecting you lenses or vision.
I should note that not all eye drops are safe to use while wearing contacts. They must clearly state they can be placed in your eyes while wearing contacts, otherwise you may run the risk of impeding your vision or damaging your contact lenses.
Wearing an eye mask can also sometimes keep your eyes from drying out while wearing contacts, especially if a passenger seated beside you has their overhead fan turned on. This constant flow of recycled air can hasten your eyes becoming dry and irritated.
Practice Good Contact Lens Hygiene
It’s vital to practice good hygiene when putting in or removing your contact lenses while traveling. Airports and planes are breeding grounds for all kinds of bacteria and other nasties, so you should always wash your hands before touching your eyes and contact lenses.
Carrying hand sanitizer is another option for disinfecting your hands when a sink is not readily available or convenient to use. Always wash your contacts with contact lens solution before and after use and never resort to storing them in regular tap water.
Health officials warn that using regular water for cleaning and storing contacts could lead to serious eye infections and other diseases, especially while travelling in regions with unsafe tap water.
You may want to consider switching to daily disposable lenses while travelling if you aren’t already doing so. You of course will need to discuss this with your eye doctor before making the switch, but this can help you better avoid potential eye infections and eye irritation while travelling.
You can keep your body and eyes further hydrated by remembering to drink plenty of water during your flight and travels. Failure to drink enough water or consuming too much alcohol or caffeine while flying can lead to dehydration and in turn see you experience itchy dry eyes, especially if you wear contacts.
Well my pupils, I hope my tips help you to enjoy your travels with a sharp set of eyes and that I may have cleared up any concerns you may have had about wearing contacts while flying.