Practical tips > Don’t let allergies kill you at the wheel

Don’t let allergies kill you at the wheel

José M. Vera
 - 29/03/2021

Spring is here again – bringing its cohort of seasonal inconveniences – namely allergies, which can prove fatal to drivers.

As the temperatures rise and nature bursts into flower, pollen and allergy levels also begin to soar. Allergic reactions include sore eyes, itchy throats, runny noses and, above all, sneezing fits. Sneezing is one of the most dangerous moments for a driver; at a speed of 90km/hr, sneezing can cause you to lose sight of the road for up to 20 seconds. In other words, you are at risk of travelling for around 500m with your eyes closed. At 90km/hr, one sneeze can lead to a 25 second loss of control, while at 120km/hr, a sneezing fit can result in a distance of 650m covered without full control of the vehicle. It is estimated that a hundred people are killed every year on the road due to allergies.

A growing problem

The number of people suffering from allergies has risen dramatically over the last ten years and allergies now affect millions of people. Not only is this figure not expected to drop, on the contrary, it is predicted that half the world’s population will suffer from allergies within the next few years.

Eight tips to ensure that allergies don’t endanger your motoring

1. Vacuum the inside of your vehicle every month, paying particular attention to carpets, fabric seats and also the dashboard. This will prevent dirt, dust and pollen from accumulating inside your car and triggering an allergic reaction while you are driving.

2. Every 15,000 kilometres and at least once a year, change your cabin air filter (from €30) – in addition to blocking unpleasant odours, it also blocks the particles that cause allergies. The leading car manufacturers equip their vehicles with special filters that offer extra protection against pollen, claiming to be 90% more effective than traditional models thanks to components such as polyphenol, a chemical substance derived from plants whose antioxidant properties capture and neutralise allergens.

3. As pollen counts are higher at the start and the end of the day, avoid driving at these times.

4. Motorists are advised to wear polarised glasses which avoid glare, because not only do they protect the eyes from direct contact with pollen, they also limit the consequences of excessive exposure to light.

5. Avoid self-medication. If you suffer from allergies, you are advised to consult a specialist who will examine your individual case and prescribe medication free of side effects. Not everyone knows that some hay fever treatments can lead to drowsiness with serious consequences for drivers. According to the experts, driving under the influence of such medication is equivalent to driving with between 0.5 and 0.6g/litre of alcohol in the blood.

6. During the spring months when the symptoms are particularly acute, avoid travelling with pets (dogs and cats) in the car: their fur can transport particles that can cause sneezing fits while driving.

7. Check your car’s air freshener: some contain allergens such as limonene or terpinene.

8. Beware of air-conditioning: when you drive through areas with very high pollen rates, switch to the “air recycling” mode to avoid introducing allergens inside the car and to keep the air as healthy as possible.


Photo: ©Estradaanton/iStock