Some medications to treat hay fever can lead to drowsiness

The medication hay fever suffering motorists use during the Spring and Summer isn’t something they immediately think about when they get behind the wheel.

However, the side-effects of ingredients in even some legally prescribed treatments have the potential for drivers to be in a position where they could be breaking the law without them even realising it.

That’s according to Greg Wilson – the founder of car insurance comparison website CompareNI – who says most motorists are oblivious to the fact ‘driving under the influence’ could result in hefty fines and points on their licence. 

Under current UK laws, legislation that bans driving while under the influence does not distinguish between illicit drugs, prescription medication and over-the-counter medications. 

This means any type of drug that affects a motorist’s driving ability could potentially result in a drug-driving conviction, even if it’s something as simple as hay fever medication that causes drowsiness.

“A lot of people aren’t sure exactly when the hay fever season starts, it actually runs for seven months of the year – March to September – depending on the type of pollen people are allergic to, so it can catch drivers off guard,” said Wilson.

“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, points on their licence and endanger themselves and other road users,” he added.

To ensure those motorists who feel the effects of hay fever, CompareNI has issued the following advice.

Five driving tips for hay fever sufferers

  1. Check medication – antihistamines and hay fever medications can differ in strength, check with the 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 journeys – check the forecast for pollen warnings or download a weather app, which gives a 5-day forecast for high pollen counts;
  3. Keep the car as pollen-free as possible – clean the car regularly to get rid of dust that could trigger symptoms before setting out, regularly change pollen filters in the car’s ventilation system and keep car windows closed during journeys;
  4. Get stocked up – keep the car stocked with fresh tissues, hay fever medicine, a bottle of water, eye drops, anything used to ease the symptoms, should they strike unexpectedly;
  5. Drive safely – better to err on the side of caution, giving lots of space to fellow road users and taking breaks if hay fever symptoms start.  If drivers don’t feel well or the pollen count is high, play it safe and don’t make non-urgent journeys.
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