Allergic rhinitis (AR) affects up to 30 percent of the adult population, yet symptomatic patients continue to engage in daily activities including driving. Previous research linked seasonal allergies to car accidents. Some studies have shown that AR can decrease cognitive functions, especially during longer-lasting tasks. Other reports suggest negative effects on psychomotor functions including driving, but the impact on driver performance was unclear.
Now, arecent study discovered that common seasonal allergy symptoms including watery eyes, sneezing, and fatigue can negatively affect driving ability. The results were comparable to having a blood-alcohol concentration nearing impaired levels.
New Traffic Safety Risk Factor
Investigators in the Netherlands conducted a study on subjects in their early 30s with documented grass and tree pollen allergies. During the off-season when they were symptom free, the researchers held four testing sessions on separate days. Treated subjects received antihistamines or steroid nasal sprays. The control group took placebo pills or sprays. After each treatment, subjects received grass and tree allergens or inactive placebos through nasal sprays to provoke allergy symptoms.
Then all subjects took 60-minute driving tests in vehicles with cameras that recorded how often they veered toward the center lane. This standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP) technique is common in drunken driving assessments. Higher SDLP scores indicate greater impairments. Driving conditions were easy without distractions from bad weather, radios, or cellphones. During the last 15 minutes of driving, subjects took verbal memory tests. Car audio systems presented lists of words and asked them to recall as many as possible.
The greatest deficit occurred in participants with allergic symptoms who’d received placebo treatments. SDLP scores for this group were comparable to driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.03 percent, just under the legal limit of 0.05 percent in most countries. Antihistamine and nasal spray treatments reduced SDLP scores to nonsignificant levels.
When engaging in the secondary memory task during driving, allergy sufferers’ performance deteriorated even further. The magnitude of impairment was relevant and comparable to a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent. Treatment of AR symptoms with nasal spray improved these scores.
Treatment Is Vital
After the study, the research team concluded that untreated allergic rhinitis can reduce driving ability and put patients and others on the road at risk. Because drug therapy diminished this impairment, AR patients should take their allergy medications as prescribed to help control their condition and its dangerous complications.
Order allergy medications like Nasonex Nasal Spray online for fast relief. It counteracts nasal passage inflammation while helping prevent and treat seasonal, as well as year-round allergy, symptoms including sneezing, congestion, runny nose, headaches, and sinus pain.
The majority of seasonal allergy medications work best if you start using them before allergy season begins and your symptoms develop. This can prevent the release of histamine and other chemicals, stopping symptoms from developing or reducing their severity greatly. Be consistent with your allergy medication for best results.
Know Your Pollen Counts
The most common cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis throughout the year is airborne pollen. Your immune system overreacts to inhaled allergens by releasing histamine and chemical mediators that cause irritate your nose, throat, eyes, ears, skin, and roof of your mouth.
The National Allergy Bureau (NAB) provides accurate and reliable pollen and mold levels from approximately 80 counting stations throughout the United States. Select the station nearest you and click the “Go” button to access the most recent levels in your area.
Surviving Seasonal Allergies
Following these allergist-recommended tips can help you overcome the aggravation of seasonal allergies.
Keep all windows closed in your home and car to avoid letting in pollen.
Set your air conditioners to re-circulate in your home and vehicle to avoid drawing in outside pollen-rich air.
Limit your outside exposure when pollen counts are the highest. Stay inside between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. on warm and dry mornings, and throughout dry and windy days. The safest time for outdoor activities is immediately after a heavy rainfall.
Minimize contact with people, pets, and things that may bring pollen inside after spending excess time outdoors. Wipe down pets when they enter your home after being outside if you can’t avoid them.
Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen. In severe allergy cases, wear a facemask when daily pollen counts are extremely high.
Wash your face and hands after you’ve been outside to remove pollen.
Remove your work clothes and shoes as soon as you get home. Don’t drag allergens throughout your home, where they’ll continue to trigger your symptoms. Take off your shoes outside the door before entering. Throw your clothes in the hamper and change into something else.
Wash bed linens in hot, soapy water once a week.
Avoid line drying your clothes and bedding outdoors when your local pollen count is high.
Shower and shampoo your hair before going to bed to remove pollen and keep it off your bedding.
Gargling with salt water once or twice a day throughout allergy season can ease congestion and soothe a sore or scratchy throat.
Take symptoms seriously. If you feel lousy, rest, go to bed early, or take a sick day. Overexertion will only make you feel worse.