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Hay fever allergy reported as cause of accidents in the UK

More than 2 in 3 (68%) UK drivers said their hay fever has impacted their driving. And almost 1 in 5 (17%) said they were caught in an accident or near miss, research reveals.

Published on 13th June 2023
  • Drivers who suffer from hay fever see their allergy peak during the summer
  • Almost 1 in 4 (24%) of those surveyed find their hay fever impacts their vision while driving
  • More than 4 in 5 (85%) of those involved in an accident saw further impact, including an increase to their insurance costs or motoring convictions
  • Piriton proves most popular antihistamine among those surveyed to keep allergy symptoms at bay - but the medication used in this this could be risky for those behind the wheel
  • Louise Thomas, Confused.com motor insurance expert helps drivers understand the impact of medication on drug driving laws

For many Brits, hay fever is a sign of the beginning of sunny weather - although a less welcome side effect, sure. But it’s also one that could be putting motorists at risk of an accident, new research reveals.

A survey by Confused.com of 1,500 UK motorists with hay fever found that it caused more than 2 in 3 (68%) to have a negative impact on their driving. And for many, this has led to a potentially dangerous situation, as almost 1 in 5 (17%) have experienced an accident or near-miss as a result.

Hay fever affects almost 1 in 2 people at some point in their life(1) and can make them feel unwell during the most enjoyable seasons of the year. In fact, almost half (49%) of those surveyed see their symptoms peak during the summer months. And for most, these symptoms come in the form of sneezing (72%), itchy or watery eyes (68%) or a running or blocked nose (63%).

But some motorists have also reported side effects of the allergy that are more concerning, especially while driving. Of those surveyed who saw a negative impact on their driving ability, almost 1 in 4 (23%) said that sneezing and coughing impacted their vision. One in 5 (21%) also reported a lack of concentration while driving, and a further 17% have felt dizziness or lightheadedness.

While these are all uncomfortable at the best of times, trying to tackle this while driving can be tricky. Of those who’ve had an accident or near miss due to hay fever, the most cases (37%) were losing control of the car from coughing or sneezing. One in 4 (25%) also found they lost control because their vision was compromised. As hay fever is known to cause drowsiness, it’s no surprise that more than a quarter (27%) also found their reactions and coordination delayed.

And so understanding how to keep the symptoms at bay would certainly be beneficial. For many, the most popular way to do this is choosing medication to keep their symptoms at bay.

However, this can be risky, especially when choosing stronger medication. While most off-the-shelf or over-the-counter options are safe, some also have a sedating effect. And these should be avoided if you’re driving. Diphenhydramine and Chlorphenamine(2) are among the most common types that could have this effect, with chlorphenamine being the main medicine found in Piriton. So it’s worrying that this is the most popular brand used by the allergy sufferers, with 39% having taken it before driving.

With many people choosing this medication, it’s perhaps no surprise that they found their driving ability to be compromised. And experts urge motorists to choose non-drowsy alternatives if they’re getting behind the wheel. If you’re seen to be impacted by medication, this could lead to a conviction for drug driving if found to be driving dangerously. Confused.com’s experts have outlined drug driving laws, including which prescription medication should be avoided if you’re driving.

Being involved in an accident or near-miss can be a distressing time, especially when it’s considered out of your control. But more than 4 in 5 (85%) saw further consequences to the incident. Almost a third (32%) said their insurance costs increased, perhaps as a result of needing to make a claim. And almost 1 in 3 (30%) had points on their licence, or a fine (23%). It’s clear that this allergy is causing some financial impact on drivers, especially during a challenging economic time.

Taking measures to keep hay fever symptoms at bay not only makes it more comfortable for sufferers, but could keep them safe while driving too. But a sneeze or cough can’t be helped. If drivers find their symptoms too severe, then stopping until they pass will make sure they’re not in a dangerous situation.

Louise Thomas, Confused.com motor insurance expert comments: “We’re not at the peak time of year where hay fever sufferers are hit hard with their symptoms, and these are uncomfortable at the best of times. However, it’s clear that this is also impacting them while driving, with consequences like an accident or near-miss a common occurrence for many.

“Sneezing or coughing behind the wheel can cause you to swerve or lose control of the car, and this can be unavoidable. But if you feel a sneeze of cough coming, try to slow down and be aware of any traffic or hazards ahead of you.

“But the other risk is taking certain medications before you drive. This can have a sedating effect, which could land you in trouble with the law if it impacts your driving ability. Always read the label or speak to a doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure if your usual medication is considered to be unsafe for driving. They should point you to an alternative.

“Hay fever can’t be avoided, and it’s a real pain for those who suffer. But taking the right measures before driving can keep you safe while on the road.”


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About Confused.com

Launched in 2002, Confused.com was the UK's first digital marketplace for car insurance and is one of the leading brands in the sector, generating over one million quotes per month. It has expanded its range of comparison products over the years to include home insurance, van insurance, motorcycle insurance, and car finance comparison, as well as a number of tools designed to save consumers money.

Confused.com is not a supplier, insurance company or broker. It provides an objective and unbiased service. By using cutting-edge technology, it has developed a series of intelligent web-based solutions that evaluate a number of risk factors to help customers with their decision-making, subsequently finding them great deals on a wide-range of insurance products, financial services, utilities and more. Confused.com’s service is based on the most up-to-date information provided by UK suppliers and industry regulators.

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