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Nationwide Vehicle Contracts advise how to drive in the summer if you suffer from hay fever.

After a long and cold winter, the first signs of summer arriving always get us in good spirits. The thought of warm temperatures and beer gardens is undoubtedly exciting until you're hit with an industrial bout of hay fever.

According to Allergy UK, 10% and 40% of all adults suffer from hay fever, making day-to-day activities such as driving a nightmare. Frequent sneezing, a runny nose, and watery eyes are just a few of the symptoms, and as they involve the senses, they can massively increase the chances of an accident when on the road.

To make matters worse, more than half of hay fever patients believe their symptoms lead to daytime fatigue and drowsiness, which are not ideal for drivers.

To help keep you on the roads during hay fever season, Nationwide Vehicle Contracts provides top tips on how to drive with hay fever.

Hay fever

According to the NHS, hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. It typically affects your mouth, nose, throat, and eyes and can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Sneezing
  • A blocked/runny nose
  • Itchy, watery, or red eyes
  • Itchy throat, mouth, nose, and ears
  • Loss of smell
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired

None of these are ideal, especially when behind the wheel. Hay fever primarily affects your senses, so if you suffer, it will distract you from the road, causing an increased risk for you and other road users.

Therefore, you must know how to deal with hay fever and how to counter the symptoms when behind the wheel.


If you're taking over-the-counter or prescription drugs for hay fever, ensure you check the information leaflet before you get in the car. Certain antihistamines can cause drowsiness and cause you to fail the drug driving test, putting you and other motorists at risk.

Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart's Head of Driving and Riding Standards, states: "Be sure to check the medication thoroughly and see if it's suitable. But most importantly, concentrate on your route to recovery so you can get back onto the road sooner rather than later."

If you want to get the most out of your medication, Holly Shaw, a nurse adviser at Allergy UK, suggests taking your hay fever medication early is the key to tackling pollen when levels peak. If you want more advice on this, seek the help of your GP or local pharmacist.

Legal considerations

As mentioned above, some hay fever medications could cause you to fail the drug driving test if pulled over. Motorists convicted of drug driving offences could face a minimum one-year driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to six months in prison, and a criminal record. Make sure you're safe rather than sorry.

Also, while hay fever doesn't have to be reported to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), under the Highway Code, you must be fit to be in charge of your car. Therefore, you must consider the legal implications of whether you're well enough to drive.

Assess the situation

If you suffer from severe hay fever, check the pollen count every day you plan on driving. If the Met Office deems the pollen count as high or you feel ill, consider another mode of transport to keep you and other road users safe.

See if a colleague or friend can take you home if you're already out somewhere.

Plan your journey 

If you suffer from severe hay fever, plan your route to avoid areas with a higher pollen count. Try and stick to urban areas if you can, and avoid country lanes with lots of flowers and crops on each side.

A quick look on Google Maps Streetview should help you plan your journey.

Prepare your car

Although you may think your car has nothing to do with hay fever, it actually has a big impact on your symptoms. Most of these are preventable if you know what you're doing:

  • Make sure you regularly clean your car to remove dust and pollen. Vacuum your carpets, mats, and upholstery every couple of weeks.
  • Check your car's pollen filter. Most cars produced in the last 20 years will likely come with a cabin or pollen filter to keep the air conditioning free of debris. However, they can get clogged up and stop working. You should change your pollen filter every 12,000 miles; they can be bought from high-street retailers like Halfords.
  • Keep the windows closed to keep pollen out. All modern cars will have an air conditioning unit fitted, so ensure you get your money's worth.
  • Stock up on tissues. A runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing are all symptoms of hay fever, so make sure you keep some tissues at hand to keep your eyes on the road.

Prepare yourself

As well as taking your medication, there are a few extra steps you can take to reduce the symptoms of hay fever:

  • Put a few dabs of Vaseline inside your nostrils before setting off. This will help trap pollen before it irritates your nasal hairs.
  • If it's sunny outside, the brightness could cause your eyes to water and disrupt your vision when driving, so counter this by always having sunglasses with you.

On the road 

If you're okay to drive, you'll need to adapt your driving just in case a few symptoms hit:

  • Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front. You could sneeze at any time, causing you to take your eyes off the road, so ensure you're a safe distance from any other motorists.
  • If you feel a couple of symptoms brewing, pull over in a safe place to take care of the issue. This will be much safer than doing it when behind the wheel.

MEDIAL DISCLAIMER: The information provided is for educational purposes ONLY and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. If you seek more information on hay fever, check out the NHS and the Met Office.

Looking for more driving advice? Nationwide Vehicle Contracts produce regular blogs on various topics, from Tips and Tricks for Off-Roading and How to Keep Your Vehicle Running Smoothly.