A piece of “common wisdom” that seems to be making the rounds these days is that you shouldn’t wear contact lenses at bonfires, barbecues or similar settings where fire may be present. The claim is that the extreme heat from the fire can cause the contact lenses to melt or fuse onto your eye, causing irreversible, total blindness. Our Walla Walla eye doctors are here to debunk this claim, and show you that you have nothing to fear from wearing contact lenses to your latest barbecue.
Rumors About Contact Lenses and Fire
Where did this piece of “common wisdom” come from, and how do we know it’s a myth?
As far as our eye care team can tell, this rumor was started on social media sometime in 2017, with a story about a young lady who stood close to a lit charcoal grill, looking at the coals for about 2-3 minutes. She then began experiencing pain in her eyes and, upon being taken to the hospital, was told that her contact lenses were melted to her eyes and she would be permanently blind.
Contact lenses are sterilized at temperatures of up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit, and dirty contact lenses that need to be cleaned or re-sterilized are often placed in boiling water.
Contact lenses can withstand boiling water without being destroyed. This means that the heat from the fire would have to boil away the tears in a person’s eyes before their contact lenses would even begin to sustain damage. For this to happen, you would have to be standing in the fire itself, and by then you would also have severe burns on your skin, and melted contacts may be only part (and perhaps the least part) of your concern.
At least 125 million people wear contact lenses worldwide. If normal grills and barbecues could melt contact lenses, contact lens wearers would be unable to operate or even approach household heaters, stoves, and a variety of other common heat sources without melting their lenses. Millions of cases of melted contact lenses would be reported each year. This is simply not the case.
So, obviously, contact lenses can’t melt to your eyes and cause permanent blindness because fire or other common heating sources simply don’t get hot enough for that. But is there any kernel of truth in this concern?
A Kernel of Truth? When Your Contacts Dry Out
Though it’s impossible for your contact lenses to be melted to your eye from being close to fire or another heating element, there is a very real way that you may feel like your contacts are temporarily stuck to your eye.
Being close to heat can potentially dry your contact lenses out, causing the to feel like they are stuck to your eye when you attempt to take them out. This can also result from air conditioning blowing directly into your eyes, extended time of computers and other digital screens, being outside in overly cold or dry weather, and many more things.
If your contacts feel like this sometimes, don’t worry! A drop or two of contact lens solution will help you safely take out your contact lenses without any ill effect.
Want to learn more about contact lenses and your eye health? Contact our Walla Walla eye doctors at Valley Vision Clinic today.