Research has found that drivers suffering from acute pollen allergies are potentially as accident-prone as drunk drivers, as one sneeze at 100kph can mean driving blind for about 30m, according to Germany’s TUV inspection agency.
While certain medication may help against symptoms such as runny noses and watery eyes, you’ll want to check the instructions to see if your driving ability will be impaired.
Your best friend when driving, however, is your car’s pollen filter – if it’s still filtering, that is.
When new, filters keep pollen and dust out of the car’s interior, but filters that have not been changed in a long time can clog up and a become a breeding ground for mould and other spores.
The filter’s antibacterial and fungicidal coatings also stop working after a long period of use. At the very latest, drivers should put in new filters after the pollen count reaches its peak.
Pollen filters in cars usually need to be changed every 15,000km. But even drivers who don’t drive that much should change them at least once a year to ensure they continue to effectively filter out allergens, inspection experts say.
“This usually happens during an general inspection,” says technical inspector Vincenzo Luca. However, if you have to regularly drive through pollen-laced areas, you might have to change your car sooner.
Only a few car models allow the owner to easily switch out the filter themselves. Most drivers will have to bring their car to the workshop to get it replaced.
So-called multi-filters with activated carbon can be retrofitted into many vehicle models, although this option is somewhat more expensive. Activated carbon filters also keep out foul odours and certain contaminants in addition to pollen and dust.
If you suffer from hay fever, you should also try to avoid parking under trees during pollen season; otherwise, your car could be covered with tree flowers and pollen when you return.
To keep your allergy symptoms to a minimum, you should try to avoid direct contact with the pollen. After spending time outside, put your jacket in the car’s boot so as not to carry the pollen on it into the vehicle’s interior.
While driving, it’s best to keep the windows (and sunroof, if you’ve got one) closed. – dpa