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Study Finds Driving With Allergies Is Like Driving Drunk

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red eyes from pollen allergy

If you have tree and grass pollen allergies — which cause sneezing and itchy, watery eyes — your driving can be as risky as driving drunk, according to a new study, writes Jim Bergamo for KVUE. The study, “Allergic rhinitis is a risk factor for traffic safety,” published in the July 2014 issue of the journal Allergy, says that allergic rhinitis (AR) affects up to 30% of adults. The study’s goal was to find out to what extent untreated AR affects driving performance as compared with treated AR, according to an abstract of the study.

Kelsey Pape writes for that more than 3 million Americans can be affected by AR every allergy season, which occurs twice a year. Researchers tested 19 AR patients in driving tests. Participants drove for an hour while being observed via a camera to see how often they veered out of lane, Pape writes.

She quotes Dr. Bob Overholt, an allergist, who says:

‘They had a little camera that would look and see how somebody was focusing on their driving. If people were having their allergic problems in their season, it was almost like they were driving under the influence of alcohol.’

Drivers who have allergy symptoms and are not medicated for them are similar to drunk drivers whose blood alcohol levels are .03%, according to the study. Bergamo quotes Albert Gros, M.D., the chief medical officer at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, as saying he was surprised by the study’s findings. He told Bergamo that his first thought was that antihistamines were the cause of the test subjects’ impaired driving. He added that most people who suffer from allergies do not feel well and have trouble concentrating, and having this allergy is almost like having the flu.

In an article appearing on, WSB-TV writes that a doctor who works at the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic finds the study’s results “very disturbing.” The physician, Dr. Stanley Fineman, advises people to learn what they are allergic to and get treated for it. The study was conducted in the Netherlands, by E. F. P. M. Vuurman,, L. L. Vuurman, I. Lutgens and B. Kremer. It appears in Volume 69, Issue 7 of Allergy.

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