Allergy & Air on May 6, 2015 0 Comments The sneezing, coughing and wheezing you do when allergy season starts are more than a hassle and a headache, according to a recent study. Researchers have likened the symptoms of allergies to being under the influence of alcohol. If you are behind the wheel, that can pose a significant threat to you and others on the road. In order to maintain your safety, it is important to understand the findings of the report and follow some key tips when your allergies kick in. Behind the Study Most people who experience symptoms of allergies can list a few common traits: Itchy eyes Runny nose Headache Researchers in the Netherlands decided to take a look at how these factors affected someone driving. They used participants who have allergies to pollen and mounted a camera in a vehicle to monitor their driving for 60 minutes. Drivers were split into two groups: Those who drove on non-drowsy nasal sprays or antihistamines, and those who received no medication. The scientists then made a note of how often the drivers veered into the center lane, which is also a characteristic of driving while under the influence of alcohol. What the researchers discovered is that people who were suffering from allergies and did not take medications did much worse. In fact, the study found that those drivers were comparable to people who get behind the wheel with a blood alcohol content of .03 percent. Researchers also administered a memory test to both groups. Those who did not have any medication again performed worse. Experts also note that taking an antihistamine that is not non-drowsy could produce a level of impairment. Drunk on Pollen? Likening people who have itchy eyes and a pounding headache to those who have tossed back a few drinks may not be too far off the mark. If you have ever felt the literal pressure of seasons changing, then you know all too well how foggy it can make you. Experts explain that when you have an allergic reaction, your body will release chemicals such as histamine, which will make you feel sluggish and run down. What’s more, having allergies can even affect the way you sleep at night. Congestion, coughing and sneezing can easily lead to less sleep, making you feel groggy all day long, much like the side effects of alcohol. Watery, itchy eyes can affect your vision, which is certainly a detriment when you are trying to drive. Get Tested A key part of avoiding an allergic reaction is to know what kinds of triggers affect you. For example, some people will suffer when pollen counts or mold counts are high. Doctors can administer one of three tests to determine your sensitivities: Skin Prick Test: Used to identify airborne allergens or food allergies. A physician may prick your skin in order for substances to enter your body. Blood Test: This is done in matters of severe reactions or if the patient has a serious skin condition that would inhibit a skin test. Intradermal Test: If a skin prick test is inconclusive, a physician may recommend injecting the suspected allergen into your skin. Skin Patch Test: Often used just for skin allergies, this involves having a solution placed on a patch that is worn for up to 72 hours. Once you know what is causing your reaction, you can be better prepared to combat it. If you know you will start sneezing when mold counts are high, you can be sure to have plenty of medicine and tissues on-hand. Staying Safe No one who feels impaired – whether under the influence of alcohol or under the weather – should attempt to operate a vehicle. Driving requires the ability to have quick reaction times and fast thinking. People who are suffering from severe allergies may want to consider carpooling or taking the bus if they are not confident that they can drive with the same clarity they otherwise would. Beyond that, the study suggests that taking a non-drowsy antihistamine can greatly reduce the symptoms of allergies. It is important to read the labels of any medications before getting behind the wheel because some may warn of side effects that could take a toll on your driving abilities. Fight Your Allergies There are other ways you can reduce allergy symptoms beyond over-the-counter medications. For example, many physicians recommend taking probiotics in order to introduce healthy bacteria into your system. These not only help to improve your stomach and gastrointestinal health, but studies suggest that they boost your immune system and may even have an important influence on the root cause of allergies. You can also try taking certain herbs. Research has shown that butterbur, which is a perennial plant, has anti-inflammatory properties and can be just as effective as cetirizine, which is an antihistamine commonly found in over-the-counter medications. As a bonus, the herb does not have the drowsy side effects some medicines do. Another method of fighting your allergies is to purify your home. There are plenty of air purifiers on the market today that are geared toward allergy sufferers. And of course, getting more vitamin C into your diet is a good thing no matter if you are suffering from allergies or not. The vitamin can actually prevent your body from making histamine. Eat Right There are a number of foods that can naturally combat allergy symptoms. For example, onions and garlic are high in quercetin, which is thought to reduce the effects of allergies as well as bronchitis, sinusitis and asthma. To get the best results, quercetin should be taken at the same time as vitamin C. Foods that are naturally high in vitamins A and C are also great for warding off allergies. Those include: Pumpkin Carrots Broccoli Kale Citrus fruits Green peppers Beets If you are concerned that your allergies will affect your safety on the road or general wellbeing, it is important to speak with your physician. As the Netherlands study noted, leaving your symptoms unchecked can be extremely hazardous. Whether you choose to take medications or decide to fight those watery eyes naturally, the important thing is to take action. Doing so will make you feel better and give you peace of mind.