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How Can Allergies Affect Drivers?

pollen in the air

Allergies can range from a minor annoyance to a major inconvenience. The most common allergy symptoms can also be easily confused for those associated with the common cold, which may leave some allergy-sufferers unsure of what is really going on inside their bodies.

While you might be the only one feeling the effects of your allergies, others can still be impacted. At Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco, our Philadelphia car accident lawyers have seen how allergies affect drivers. Whether taking allergy medication, using natural remedies, or going untreated, drivers with allergies may be more likely to cause a car accident than other drivers.

What Are Allergies?

Allergies occur when your body has an allergic reaction to potential allergens in the air that you then inhale. You might also hear allergies referred to as hay fever or allergic rhinitis. While no two patients are exactly the same, many people with allergies share similar symptoms, including:

  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Itchy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Red, watery eyes

Allergies can be either year-round or seasonal. If your allergens are only present during specific times of the year—such as pollen on trees and plants during spring—you may only deal with allergy symptoms for a few months or even weeks out of the year. Some of the most common environmental allergens that can trigger either year-round or seasonal allergies include:

  • Tree, flower, and ragweed pollen
  • Mold
  • Pet dander and hair
  • Dust mites

If you consistently notice allergy symptoms that worsen and wane during certain times of the year, or experience symptoms when you spend time around animals, you could be suffering from allergies. Over-the-counter allergy medications can help mitigate these symptoms. If they do not help, cause side effects, or you are concerned about taking a medication, speak with your doctor. It might be necessary to undergo allergy testing to ascertain whether your symptoms could be caused by something else.

Allergies Impair Your Ability to Drive

Allergies are far from uncommon. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America—AAFA—around 50 million people in America experience allergies every year. This makes it the sixth most common cause of chronic illness in the United States. The fact that allergies are so common may mislead some people into believing that this condition cannot cause impairment. Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers know that driving with allergies can be dangerous, though.

According to a study published in the Aug. 2017 issue of the American Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, allergies impair driving. For this study, researchers conducted a survey of more than 3,800 people aged 25 to 53 and found that nearly 64% reported that their allergies negatively affected their driving abilities. The study also found that:

  • 20% reported feeling as though their allergies limited their abilities to respond to specific driving situations
  • 5% needed to pull over
  • 15% blamed unusual driving errors on allergies
  • 15% said they felt unable to drive
  • 5% fell asleep behind the wheel

Some of the most common allergy symptoms—including watery eyes and sneezing—can make it exceedingly difficult to focus on the road and react properly to potential hazards.

Many allergy sufferers also deal with “brain fog.” This is a hazy feeling that makes people feel tired and as if they are unable to concentrate well. Driving is a task that requires all of your attention, so getting behind the wheel while experiencing brain fog can truly be dangerous. Anyone who is experiencing brain fog or any other symptoms associated with allergies can cause a serious car accident that injures those involved.

In some situations, driving while experiencing allergy symptoms is equivalent to drunk driving with a blood-alcohol level of .05%.

You should take precautions if you have allergies and know that you will have to drive. If possible, limit your exposure to any known allergens. When this is not possible or sufficient to minimize your symptoms, you can also try allergy medications or shots.

The Link Between Allergy Medications and Motor Vehicle Crashes

Allergy medications can be life-changing if you suffer from allergies. Unfortunately, they can also be dangerous if you drive. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration—the FDA—acknowledges the potentially deadly link between driving and allergy medications, both over-the-counter and prescription.

If you take an antihistamine to alleviate your allergy symptoms, it could cause its own troubling side effects that impair your driving ability. Common side effects associated with allergy medications include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness and excessive sleepiness
  • Fainting
  • Slowed movements
  • Nausea
  • Trouble paying attention or focusing

Philadelphia car accident lawyers frequently see how these types of behaviors contribute to car accidents. A driver who cannot see clearly or who is on the brink of fainting cannot react in a safe, timely manner to hazards such as other drivers slamming on their brakes, bicyclists moving into turn lanes, or pedestrians using designated crosswalks.

Each and every driver should do everything within their ability to limit their risk on the road, which includes making sure that they are in the right physical and emotional state to drive. If you are suffering from severe allergy symptoms or dealing with medication side effects, it would be safer to find alternative modes of transportation. Having a friend or loved one drive you, using a rideshare app, or utilizing public transportation are all smart alternatives.

Life After an Accident Caused by Allergies

At Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco, we have seen our fair share of accidents caused by drivers who failed to acknowledge or take into account how their health may impact their driving abilities. Both allergy symptoms and allergy medication side effects limit a driver’s ability to act safely and make good decisions behind the wheel.

Our Philadelphia car accident attorneys can work to prove liability if another driver caused the accident in which you were injured. We will fight to make sure that the insurance company does not bully you into taking a lower settlement than you are entitled to and will accompany you along every step of the personal injury claim process.

Remember, you do not have to be in this alone. Contact our offices today to schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable car accident lawyers.

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