Driving With Hayfever
07 June 2018
With summer just around the corner, the days are getting longer, the skies are getting bluer and the mercury is finally starting to rise. For most of us this is welcome news, but not for everyone.
Approximately one in five of us suffer from hay fever according to NHS data, and those of us who have it will know that it’s a far bigger problem than just itchy eyes and runny noses; it can seriously affect your ability to go about your daily life.
Everything gets that bit more difficult from socialising to sleeping, but driving in particular can be dangerously affected both by the symptoms of hayfever itself but also by medications used to treat it.
Is It Safe To Drive After Taking Hayfever Medicine?
The vast majority of medicines used to treat the symptoms of hayfever are antihistamines, which work by counteracting the effects of your body’s immune response to pollen.
One of the most well-known side-effects of antihistamines are that they can cause drowsiness, sickness and dizziness, all of which could increase your chances of having an accident behind the wheel.
Some brands of tablets used to treat hayfever can also affect your vision, your hearing and your reaction times and so it’s vitally important to read the side-effects information on any hayfever medication before taking it.
Worse still, over-the-counter medication is covered under the same drug-driving laws as more serious drugs like cocaine and cannabis.
Tougher Driving Laws
Tougher laws introduced in 2017 allow police to randomly stop motorists and administer on-the-spot drug tests; if it’s found your driving could be impaired, you could face a range of penalties including a minimum one-year driving ban, an unlimited fine or in serious cases even prison time.
If you’re in any doubt, you should ask your doctor or pharmacists if a medicine could affect your ability to drive. If you find a particular medicine makes you sleepy or lethargic, you should also consider asking if there’s a non-sedating alternative available.
How Hayfever Affects Driving
It’s not just the medication used to treat hayfever that can be dangerous when you’re on the road as the nasty effects of the illness itself can seriously impair your ability to drive.
Research from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands has found that hayfever symptoms can impair your driving ability to the same degree as drinking two to three units of alcohol, which is equivalent to the legal limit in most European countries.
Itchy, watery eyes and sneezing – both of which can cause drivers to take their hands off the wheel or otherwise become distracted – are major causes of this impairment. It’s also calculated that motorists driving at 60mph can travel up to 50 feet totally blind whilst sneezing: roughly the length of one-and-a-half double decker buses!
How To Stay Safe Driving With Hayfever
Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the effects of hay fever whilst driving that don’t involve taking potentially dangerous medication.
The first step is to give your car’s interior a good cleaning. Get your vacuum cleaner out and give all the carpets and upholstery a good once-over, which can help remove trapped dust and pollen that can easily get lodged inside your vehicle.
It’s also recommended you take your car to get its air conditioning system flushed; pollen, dust and other debris will get sucked into your car’s air con system through daily driving and will be blown directly into your face any time you turn it on. Having it professionally flushed and cleaned will clear out all those potential allergens trapped inside your vehicle.
Many cars these days also come with special pollen filters or pollen traps built into their air conditioning systems, however these can become blocked and stop working if they’re not regularly maintained. These filters will usually be swapped out when your car gets serviced, but don’t wait to get a fresh one installed if your service schedule doesn’t coincide with this time of year.
Finally, other tips involve keeping your windows closed while driving to prevent pollen from being directly blown into the cabin and also wearing sunglasses. These won’t help with sneezing, but can definitely prevent pollen from flying into your eyes and impairing your vision.Read more: Top Tips For Driving In Bright Sunlight And Glare