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Hay fever risks for drivers

 Published 16th July 2021
General Guides 

We all know not to drink and drive, so it's a pretty sure bet that if you were pulled over and charged with driving under the influence of drugs you'd be utterly mortified.

Yet that's exactly what thousands of people risk doing every day.

Hay fever season is with us again, and road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist is encouraging sufferers to be extra careful before getting behind the wheel. Estimates suggest hay fever affects around 20 per cent of the UK's population. Add in any other seasonal allergies people may suffer from, and you quickly get to a large number of people, many of them driving on a daily basis.

Symptoms of the seasonal allergy include sneezing, itchy or watery eyes and a runny nose. Quite often all three will strike at the same time, which can be highly distracting for anyone behind the wheel of a car. If you can't see through the tears and the sneezes your ability to concentrate and focus on driving is inevitably compromised.

GEM chief executive Neil Worth commented: “The arrival of hay fever can herald weeks of misery for millions, with the guarantee of unpleasant symptoms such as frequent sneezing, itchiness and sleep problems that can make everyday life hard.”

Every sneeze involves a couple of seconds where you won't be able to concentrate on your driving, while inflamed or itchy eyes reduce the quality of your vision. Sufferers will often find it hard to concentrate on driving if they're deprived of good sleep and are distracted by the need to deal with these symptoms.

The other side of GEM's warning is that some treatments can be dangerous for drivers, because their sedative effect can leave a sufferer feeling fatigued, dizzy or groggy.

Some antihistamine medicines – used to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever – can have a sedative effect. This means they can make you feel tired, lethargic and unable to concentrate, putting you at far higher risk if you attempt to drive.

Whether they're bought over the counter or prescribed by your doctor, if the drug can make you drowsy, then you must not drive. The same road traffic laws apply to drivers taking medicines as to illicit drugs. If your ability to drive is shown to be impaired and you cause a collision, you risk prosecution, a heavy fine and the loss of your licence.

To try and get the point across, GEM has created a six-point ‘POLLEN' plan as a simple safety checklist for any driver likely to need a hay fever medicine:

- P rescription: If a medicine you're taking may cause drowsiness, don't drive
- O ver the counter: It's not just prescription medicines that can cause drowsiness
- L abel: Check for drowsiness warnings on any medicines you're taking
- L ook for alternatives: If you need to drive ask about other drugs without these side-effects
- E nquire: Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure it's safe to drive
- N ew drug: Be particularly careful if you are using a medicine for the first time

Finally, if you do suffer from hayfever, make sure the next car you lease from us has air conditioning and preferably a pollen filter, too. It could make your car the safe haven from sneezes.

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