It’s that wonderful time of year again – the smell of freshly cut grass, flowers sprouting and the warm glow of the sun on your face.

Well, that is unless you suffer from hayfever. Each year the pollen count seems to be rising in the UK and bringing with it a sea of sneezing, sore eyes and itchy throat; even compelling the strongest amongst us to thrust forward towards the nearest remedy.

OK, that was a little dramatic, but hayfever can be very unpleasant for a large proportion of Brits each year – it is estimated that between 10%-30% of people suffer from the allergy.

But we have got some bad news – changes in our climate may actually lengthen the pollen season, whilst also making the concentration much higher here in the UK.

Damn you global warming.

But fortunately, more than ever, we have access to an abundance of over-the-counter medicines and remedies to soothe your misery, and help combat this summer in style.

While these may be great for helping with your allergies, they may actually be putting you in harms way – especially if you choose to get behind the wheel of your car.


Why would medication affect me behind the wheel?

Medication is made to relieve your symptoms and help you manage illnesses, allergies or conditions; but sometimes, depending on the severity of symptoms, you may be prescribed more powerful remedies – these will obviously feel like a blessing at the time, but they may leave you feeling nauseas, tired or dizzy, all of which are not ideal for driving.

Most common remedies (i.e. paracetamol, ibuprofen, etc) will be absolutely fine to take before jumping into your car, but this rule of thumb cannot be applied to all medicines.

Every single medicine is designed to react differently in your body, so it is essential to figure out whether you can or cannot drive while using it.


How do you know whether you can drive with medication?

Unless you study Chemistry and/or are in the Pharmaceutical field, it is unlikely that you would know whether the chemicals inside the medicine would affect you behind the wheel.

But there is something that we can all do to figure out whether you can drive or not – check the label.

Normally, the packaging will give us a clue. Either with a stark warning to not operate any machinery, or a leaflet inside documenting the do’s and don’ts involved.

Put your glasses on if you need to – the wording may be a little small.

However, if you still are unsure whether you can safely take the wheel, consult either your local pharmacist, or the more obvious way – check the internet.

This is a serious matter, with some pretty hefty implication if caught behind the wheel using a medicine which harms your ability to drive. There are many medicines out there which can affect your brain, similar to illegal drugs, so be very careful and always take a peek at the label.


What are the penalties for driving under the influence of medicine?

In the England, Scotland and Wales, much like many other countries worldwide, it is illegal to either attempt to drive, or drive if you are impaired by drugs (including those given over-the-counter).

Driving requires optimum focus, undivided attention and clear thoughts – elements which can be severely impeded when you take any strong medications, and increase your likelihood of an accident, therefore the penalties are very strong:

  • a minimum 1 year driving ban
  • an unlimited fine
  • up to 6 months in prison
  • a criminal record

On top of this, your insurance may significantly increase and chances of entering countries (United States) could be much harder for you in the future, according to GOV.UK.


What are your recommendations for driving with hayfever?

  • Check the pollen count for the day before you set out.
  • If you are sneezing a lot, pull over in a safe place until it’s passed.
  • Check the literature that comes with the drugs before getting behind the wheel – look out for side-effects including drowsiness, blurred vision, nausea etc.
  • If you are going to drive, take the non-drowsy versions of any hay fever remedies.
  • If you have taken medication, consider alternative transport and leave the car at home that day.
  • Remember that over the counter drugs are covered by the same laws as illegal drugs when it comes to driving. Don’t take the risk.