Headline: As if allergies weren't bad enough, pollen is now said to impair driving
New evidence indicates that allergies can actually impair drivers. According to a Netherlands study, drivers suffering from allergy symptoms are comparable to drivers with a 0.03% blood-alcohol content.
The study focused on people in their early 30's with tree and grass pollen allergies. The study's participants each performed a 60-minute driving test while a camera recorded how often they veered toward the center lane. The technique, called standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP), is used to assess drunken driving. According to this technique, the higher the SDLP score, the greater the impairment. The research showed that the greatest impairment occurred in participants with allergic symptoms who had received a placebo treatment.
The research was conducted during the off-season, when the subjects did not suffer from any allergy symptoms. Researchers treated the subjects with either an antihistamine, steroid nasal spray or a placebo pill or spray in four testing sessions on separate days. After each treatment, subjects were given grass and tree allergens or a placebo through a nasal spray to provoke allergy symptoms.
The researchers also found that allergy medications were not completely effective at reducing the symptoms' effects.
Dr. Stanley Fineman of the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic says that the impairment makes sense. He points out that his patients often complain about feeling tired and not feeling right. The body release of histamine and other chemical mediators can cause this run down feeling.
So what should the public do about this new evidence? Dr. Fineman advises that people find out what they are allergic to and seek treatment.
“It's very disturbing because what it basically shows is that patients who have symptoms of allergic rhinitis are impaired,” Dr. Stanley Fineman said.
Finally, if the allergy sufferer is driving with the equivalent impairment of a person at a .03% B.A.C., then having as little as one drink could cause the equivalent impairment of a person at .08%. As a life-long allergy sufferer myself, that is not a pleasant thought.