Driving tips for hay fever sufferers
Stay safe behind the wheel with our top spring and summer tips
Spring is here and warmer weather is around the corner, but for many people in the UK this signals hay fever season. Pollen allergies can be a right nuisance and if you are a driver, some roadside plants can actually be the cause of your symptoms.
In this article, we not only share our driving tips for hay fever sufferers, but also explain if you can drive while taking allergy medication, as well as the plants that cause the most problems. Read on to find out more…
What is hay fever and how is it caused?
Hay fever - also known medically as allergic rhinitis - is an allergic reaction in humans that is caused by pollen-based trees, weeds and grasses. Although largely associated with pollenous plants, hay fever can also be triggered by dust, mould and animal fur.
For sufferers who have allergies caused by pollen, late March until the end of September is when most people in the UK have noticeable symptoms. However, some hay fever sufferers can display symptoms all-year-round. This is usually the cause of perennial plants and trees; those that grow and produce pollen during each of the four seasons.
What are the most common hay fever symptoms and can it be treated?
Hay fever symptoms can vary from person to person; some people experience minor symptoms such as itchy eyes and a slight tickle in the back of their throat, whereas other people can feel like they are full of cold.
The most common hay fever symptoms are:
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Loss of smell
There is no cure for hay fever but there are over-the-counter medications that can be issued by your local pharmacist to help ease the symptoms. Antihistamines such as Piriton tend to be a preferred choice by allergy sufferers and there are holistic remedies that some people swear by too.
Can you drive with hay fever?
The short answer is yes, you can drive with hay fever as it does not need to be medically declared on your driving licence. But, your ability to drive can very much depend on the type of medication you are taking to relieve hay fever symptoms.
Can you take hay fever medication and drive?
Antihistamine-based medication for hay fever is well-known for its drowsy side effects - not ideal for being in control of a vehicle. For this reason, driving while under the influence of medication that causes you to feel drowsy can land you in big trouble with the law.
Therefore, it is only safe to get behind the wheel of a vehicle if the medication you take for hay fever is non-drowsy - this is why it is so important to read the label. We’d also recommend you don’t drive if you are taking hay fever medication for the first time, just in case you were to suffer with any side effects that could affect your ability to drive.
To put it into perspective, if you are caught driving while under the influence of medication that causes drowsiness and potentially puts yourself and other road users in danger, you could be fined up to £500, receive penalty points, be banned from driving for up to a year, or even serve time in prison.
10 tips for easing hay fever symptoms while driving
Assuming you take non-drowsy medication for hay fever and are fit to get behind the wheel, there are ways in which you can help ease your symptoms even more while driving. Here are our top 10 tips:
Apply vaseline to your nose
Adding a layer of petroleum jelly (such as vaseline) on the skin around your nostrils will help form a protective barrier. This will encourage dust or pollen particles to stick to the skin - rather than breathing them in - which will hopefully reduce the need to sneeze.
Keep your windows closed
We know this sounds pretty obvious, but keeping your car windows closed while driving will prevent pollen from entering the cabin and irritating your eyes and nose. It’s worth bearing in mind that humid and windy days create a particularly high pollen count.
Clean the air con regularly
Did you know that pollen and dust can get trapped in the car’s air conditioning system? This means that when you turn the air con or heating on, it can release spores of dust and pollen into the cabin - bad news for hay fever sufferers. Getting your air con system cleaned regularly can drastically reduce this problem.
Fit a pollen filter
To help prevent any unwanted pollen and dust particles from getting inside a vehicle, an air pollen filter can be a great addition to the air con system - it is designed to fit all makes and models.
Wipe surfaces with a damp sponge
Wiping the hard surfaces in the interior of your vehicle with a damp sponge or cloth will get rid of any dust or pollen particles that lay dormant on areas such as the dashboard.
Vacuum soft surfaces
It may seem like a bit of a chore, but vacuuming any soft surfaces inside your vehicle - such as upholstered seats - will remove any dust or pollen particles trapped in the fabric.
Wear sunglasses on bright and sunny days
Squinting when behind the wheel is never ideal, so keep a spare pair of sunglasses in the car for sunny occasions. These will also help protect your eyes from pollen and dust too, which will reduce the chances of them getting irritated while driving.
Wear a face mask
If your allergies are particularly bad, then wearing a face mask when driving will help prevent pollen and dust particles from irritating your nose and throat.
Keep tissues in reaching distance
Why not put storage compartments to good use by keeping a pack of tissues in your car. Handy to have if you experience a runny nose or watery eyes.
Check the pollen count
Plan ahead by checking the pollen count in your area and for the onward journey. The Met Office has a very useful pollen forecast tool on its website where you can check the pollen count up to five days in advance.
Plants that cause the most problems for hay fever sufferers
Some of the most pollenous plants in the UK actually grow along the roadside - not ideal for drivers with hay fever.
Verges and wasteland can provide the ideal conditions for grasses and weeds, and as we know, when left to their own devices, these can grow at an enormous rate - proving even more of a problem for allergy sufferers. All the more reason to keep your car windows shut!
The roadside plants that cause the most problems in terms of pollen particles are stinging nettles, docks, mugwort and meadow grasses. These are even more likely to cause hay fever symptoms when flowering and releasing seeds into the air.
UK hay fever hotspots
You may not realise, but the pollen count in the UK can vary between regions. Pollen is measured per cubic metre over a 24-hour period using what’s called a Burkard trap. Pollen levels are dictated by the number of pollenous species in any given area, which are affected by the ever-changing weather conditions.
The pollen count method allows weather forecasters to issue a reading of high, medium or low in your local area. Researchers at Worcester University’s pollen research services centre conducted a study to find the areas in the UK most affected by pollen.
From its research, 10 regions across the UK were ranked from high to low in terms of pollen count - number 1 being the area with the most pollen particles per cubic metre, and number 10 being the region with the lowest pollen particles per cubic metre. Here are the findings:
- SOUTH EAST
- EAST MIDLANDS
- WEST MIDLANDS
- NORTH EAST
- NORTH WEST
- SOUTH CENTRAL
- SOUTH WEST
- NORTHERN IRELAND
As you can see, the South East of England has the highest pollen count, whereas Northern Ireland has the lowest pollen count. So where you live really can affect your chances of having hay fever!
Prepare for the pollen count no matter where your journey takes you
Whether you are planning an epic road trip, weekend break away, or just some time out for the day, we can help get from A to B. Here at Rent Direct, we provide hire cars, hire MPVs or hire vans for any occasion - short term or long term.
If you’re an allergy sufferer, then why not take on board our top tips for driving with hay fever to help enjoy a symptom-free journey. We thoroughly valet all of our hire vehicles after use, so you can enjoy a clean and pollen-free start to your trip.
When out and about on the roads this summer be prepared by reading our summer driving safety guide. Are you tempted by a staycation this year? If so, check out the UK’s most memorable driving routes and plan a road trip to remember.