Drivers with hayfever who take some medications to relieve symptoms could risk a fine or points on their licence warn motoring experts
A high pollen forecast could give hay fever sufferers who are hitting the road more than just watery eyes this week, those plagued by the allergy are being warned.
With pollen rates over the next few days forecast to return to the very high levels seen a fortnight ago, people with hay fever are also being reminded to be aware of the dangers of driving when struggling with their symptoms.
While most drivers know that 'driving under the influence' can result in hefty fines of up to £5,000 and points on their licence - some motorists may be less aware of the risk of committing such an offence without even realising it.
The Road Traffic Act, which covers crimes connected to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs - does not distinguish between illegal drugs, prescription medication and over-the-counter remedies.
Sufferers with red puffy eyes, streaming noses, itchy throats or dry coughs are being told to check what medicines they take, and their possible side affects, before getting behind the wheel of a car.
Alex Kindred, a car insurance expert with comparison site Confused.com said: “Pollen counts are high, so many motorists will be desperately relying on antihistamines to keep hay fever symptoms at bay. But it’s important to check our medication is non-drowsy, or we could be hit with a fine or driving ban, for taking certain medication that affects driving ability.
“Some hayfever medications, such as chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine and promethazine, are known to cause drowsiness as a side effect."
The financial services site has a drug driving calculator on its website, which describes common side affects associated with various types of medication, and not just those used to treat allergies.
With prescription hayfever medicine often considerably stronger than over-the-counter remedies drivers are reminded that they should also speak to their doctor or pharmacist for clarity if they're unsure about what is safe and those which may have a sedative-like effect.
Greg Wilson, founder of Quotezone.co.uk, said a 'heavy machinery' warning on medication applies to cars and drivers found to be getting behind the wheel of their vehicle when they're not safe to do so could land them in big trouble.
He explained: “Most people assume that the term ‘drug-driving’ refers to driving while under the influence of illicit narcotics, but the truth is that driving after taking any type of drug, could result in a motoring conviction if the motorist’s driving abilities are impaired.
“While some hay fever medications are non-drowsy, some types do cause drowsiness, and some prescription hay fever tablets in particular carry a ‘do not operate heavy machinery’ warning. If a driver fails to obey this warning and gets behind the wheel, they could risk a hefty fine of up to £5,000 as well as points on their licence.”
While hay fever doesn't have to be reported to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) - under the rules of The Highway Code motorists must be fit to drive their car. Therefore if you are feeling unwell or your eyes are particularly watery and you're tired, even if you've not taken medication, you must consider if it is safe to get behind the wheel.
Quotezone is providing its customers with five driving tips if they're suffering with hay fever this summer:
1. Check medication, as antihistamines and hay fever medications can differ in strength. Ask your doctor if in any doubt about possible side effects and always read the label. The warning, ‘do not operate heavy machinery’ is commonly found and applies to cars, forklifts and any other heavy machinery.
2. Plan your journeys and check the Met Office pollen forecast or download a weather app, which gives a 5-day forecast, for high pollen counts.
3. Do not take non-urgent journeys if you don’t feel well or the pollen count is high. Play it safe.
4. Keep your car as pollen-free as possible in the summer. Clean and get rid of dust that could trigger symptoms, regularly change filters in your car’s ventilation system and keep windows closed during journeys to keep as much pollen out as possible.
5. Drive safely - if hayfever symptoms come on suddenly take a break.