Fatigued and distracted, we sip hot coffee, devour hamburgers, jive to the music, talk on the phone with friends and coworkers, apply make-up, and discipline the little ones in the back seat—all while maneuvering a 4,000 pound vehicle on streets jammed with other cars, buses, and pedestrians.

Oh, and we also sneeze and blow our noses.

A study cited in the July issue of Allergy (and also the June 24th Wall Street Journal) stated that driving under the influence of allergies is comparable to having a low blood alcohol concentration. The study, which was conducted in the Netherlands, found that people with untreated allergy symptoms drove considerably more impaired than those who were not. It was as if they had a blood alcohol level of .03%. The tests used were similar to those for drunken driving.

The study also noted that, although driving improved in those who were administered antihistamines, they tested more poorly on oral exams than those who did not, most likely due the level of drowsiness from the medication.

So if the pollen count is high, you may want to reach for one of the over-the-counter remedies, or better yet, take public transportation. Who knows, the day may come when we will be arrested for sneezing behind the wheel.

©2014 Mary K. Doyle

 

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