Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
1:00 AM 23rd March 2024

Millions Of Drivers Are At Risk As Hay Fever Season Arrives Early

Image credit: Shutterstock
Image credit: Shutterstock
Millions of drivers are at risk of an unlimited fine and driving ban for taking over-the-counter hay fever medication.

Motoring company are warning drivers to be aware of the side effects of taking medication to ease allergy symptoms before getting behind the wheel.

Spring allergies have arrived weeks early in the UK, and the first pollen warning of 2024 has already been issued.

Hay fever is one of the most common allergies in the UK, with reports that 10 million people in England alone suffer from pollen allergies.

Symptoms of hay fever, which include anything from itchy eyes and a runny nose to sneezing and headaches, are usually treated with antihistamines.

However, many motorists are unaware that a normal dose of the tablets can impair driving abilities, causing drowsiness, reduced reaction times, decreased coordination and judgement as well as blurred vision.

The laws surrounding drug driving mean taking over-the-counter medication to treat summer allergies could land drivers with serious charges.

In the UK, the law doesn’t distinguish between drug driving caused by illicit drugs, over-the-counter or prescribed medication.

This means that if hay fever medication affects driving ability, it could lead to drug driving convictions.

The penalties for drug driving are severe, even if the driver has innocently taken drowsy-prone hay fever medication.

If convicted, motorists could receive a one-year driving ban, unlimited fines, up to six months in prison and a criminal record.

Additionally, for 11 years afterwards, drivers found guilty will have the conviction displayed on their licences.

The NHS strongly advises those who take medications prone to drowsiness - such as chlorphenamine, cinnarizine, diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine or promethazine - avoid driving.

Greg Wilson, CEO at said:
“It may be hard to believe taking your hay fever tablets could land you a criminal conviction, which is why we wanted to issue an urgent warning to those who suffer with seasonal allergies.

“If you are one of the millions of Brits who suffer from hay fever, it is imperative you check the side effects of any medicines you are taking.

“Blurred vision, slow reaction times and drowsiness behind the wheel can all cause serious issues on the roads, putting yourself and other road users in serious danger.

“Driving in an impaired state under the influence is a very serious matter, meaning the penalties for doing so can be life-changing.

“We’re urging drivers who suffer from summer allergies to check the details of their medication to avoid potentially serious charges. Any medication that says do not operate heavy machinery includes the use of a car, so drivers need to be on the lookout for such warnings and read all instructions carefully. If in doubt, ask the pharmacist and err on the side of caution.”

Five driving tips for hay fever sufferers:

1. Keep your car as pollen-free as possible
- clean your car regularly to get rid of dust that could trigger symptoms before setting out, changing the pollen filters in your car’s ventilation system when necessary and try to keep windows closed.

2. Plan your journeys – check the Met Office Pollen warnings or download the weather app, which gives a 5-day forecast, for high pollen counts – if your symptoms are particularly bad try additional travel options or ask someone else to drive, don’t take the risk.

3. Check your medication - antihistamines and hay fever medications can differ in strength, check with your doctor if in any doubt about possible side effects and always read the label – the warning, ‘do not operate heavy machinery’ is commonly found and applies to cars, forklifts and any other heavy machinery.

4. Get stocked up – keep your car stocked with fresh tissues, hay fever medicine, a bottle of water, eye drops, anything used to ease the symptoms, should they strike unexpectedly.

5. Drive safely – be extra careful on the roads, giving lots of space to fellow road users and taking breaks if hay fever symptoms start to play up. If you don’t feel well or the pollen count is too high, play it safe and don’t take non-urgent journeys. helps millions of people in the UK find savings – can help people living in Northern Ireland.