Driving While Allergic – It’s Almost as Bad as Drunk Driving, Study Shows

A new study shows that driving while suffering allergies is akin to driving while drinking.

A new study shows that driving while suffering allergies is akin to driving while drinking.

As any longtime allergy sufferer knows, it’s no joke when allergies hit. The sniffling, the sneezing, the itchy, watery eyes – These and other symptoms can significantly affect not only the way you feel, but your ability to work productively throughout the day. But that’s not all. According to a new study, allergies also can affect your ability to safely operate a vehicle.

In fact, researchers say that driving while suffering a seasonal allergy (also called allergic rhinitis or hay fever) episode can be much like driving while drinking alcohol. Conducted in the Netherlands during the off-season, the study analyzed the driving abilities of 19 patients, all of whom were in their 30s and had grass or tree pollen allergies, after being exposed to pollen. Each participant then was administered either a nasal spray medication, an antihistamine or a placebo and let loose on a 60-minute driving course. Driving tests were conducted four times over a period of several days. In the last 15 minutes of each session, participants were given verbal memory tests to see how many words presented via the car’s audio system they could recall.

The results are unnerving. Patients treated with steroid-based nasal sprays fared well on the test, followed by those treated with antihistamine medications. But for patients who took placebos, driving performance and memory took a serious hit. Results showed that while driving with watery eyes, runny nose and fatigue, these participants’ driving skills were comparable to that of someone operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of 0.03 percent. That’s just below the legal limit of 0.05-percent BAC in most countries.

Though the legal limit here in the United States is 0.08-percent BAC, it’s important to note that judgment and coordination can be affected with a BAC as low as 0.02 percent. That’s of significant concern considering that a full 30 percent of American adults suffer allergies. What’s more, study participants were tested in easy driving conditions in clear weather without distractions of cell phones, radios and the like. Add inclement weather, cell phone calls or texts and just one chatty passenger and you can imagine how much worse results may have been for the placebo-administered patients. While seasonal allergies have been anecdotally linked to automobile accidents, the actual related effects on a driver’s performance were unknown prior to this study.

If you suffer seasonal or other allergies and are a licensed driver, don’t take chances on the road. Call 904-461-6060 today to schedule a consultation with an allergy specialist at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat.

Are you Ready for an Allergic Asthma Attack?

Do you know exactly how to use you inhaler? Practicing its use can help keep you calm in the event of an unexpected allergy or asthma attack.

Do you know exactly how to use you inhaler? Practicing its use can help keep you calm in the event of an unexpected allergy or asthma attack.

The best course of action for an allergy sufferer is to know and avoid allergy triggers. But that’s not always possible. One can easily avoid cats, but knowing when a pet left a hair on the sweater your coworker wears to work is impossible, for instance. And for those whose allergies are triggered by pollen, dodging a sudden summer storm takes all but moving to the desert.

Luckily, there are ways to prepare for the inevitable and respond quickly when an allergic reaction or asthma attack hits unexpectedly:

  • Always have your medications close at hand and make sure you know exactly how to use them. This is particularly important if you use an inhaler or an epinephrine injector, as your stress level may be high during an allergy or asthma attack. You also may need to take a higher dosage of a medication depending upon the severity of your attack.
  • Get protected early on. Many allergy and asthma specialists will recommend you get a flu shot each fall. That’s because respiratory infections like the flu can significantly effect your lung function, making you more susceptible to an attack.
  • Rise, shine and check the forecast. Weather and air quality reports for your geographical area are easily found online and typically are broadcast on morning radio and TV news shows. Also, check your local office of the American Lung Association to sign up for local air quality text alerts. If possible, plan to stay inside on days whe air quality is poor and prone to triggering an allergic or non-allergic asthma spell.
  • Stay calm and breathe. Anxiety can make your allergic reactions worse. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, rapid and shallow breathing techniques aimed at stopping hyperventilation can help you quickly reduce or even avoid certain symptoms of an asthma attack. Many patients say yoga breathing techniques help them thwart asthma attacks as well.
  • Be wary of changes. If you notice an increase in the rate at which you need to use your quick-relief medications, it may be time to boost your dosage or change your medications altogether. Talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Know when to seek medical help. Most asthma attacks can be quickly and effectively manged with prescribed medications and techniques. But a severe attack may require more intense and immediate medical treatment. Store phone numbers for your doctor’s office and other emergency contacts in your cell phone or keep them in a pocket, wallet or purse and make sure anyone you’re traveling with knows how to find them.

If you suffer from allergies or asthma, medical treatment by an experienced specialist is a must. Call 904-461-6060 to schedule a consultation today.

Common Culprits in Spring Allergies, Hay Fever

Certain trees, weeds and grasses are common springtime allergy triggers.

Certain trees, weeds and grasses are common springtime allergy triggers.

Springtime is well underway – and so is the springtime allergy season. The telltale runny nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes underlined with dark circles are known all too well by those who suffer allergies or hay fever (also called seasonal or perennial allergic rhinitis). But knowing just what triggers your allergies can help you better manage them or avoid flare-ups altogether.

Certain trees, grasses and weeds are known triggers of springtime allergies. Among the top culprits are:

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Not sure what’s causing your springtime allergy flare-ups? St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat can administer testing to identify the most likely culprits.

  • Alder
  • Ash
  • Aspen
  • Beech
  • Box elder
  • Cedar
  • Cottonwood
  • Cypress
  • Elm
  • Hickory
  • Juniper
  • Maple
  • Mulberry
  • Oak
  • Olive
  • Palm
  • Pine
  • Poplar
  • Sycamore
  • Willow

Grasses and weeds

  • Bermuda
  • Fescue
  • Johnson
  • June
  • Orchard
  • Perennial rye
  • Redtop
  • Saltgrass
  • Sweet vernal
  • Timothy

While completely avoiding springtime allergies and allergens is nearly impossible, short of moving to an area with a different landscape, there are ways to limit your exposure. Remain indoors while the pollen count is high, particularly in the early mornings, and wash your hair after spending time outside, as pollens can collect in your tresses. Keep doors and windows closed. Keep the air filters in your home clean and consider purchasing an air purifier. Be sure to dust and vacuum regularly and wear a mask while cleaning dust and mold-prone spots.

Unsure which allergens are causing your hay fever flare-ups? St. Augustine Ear, Nose and Throat can perform allergy testing to identify the most likely culprit, then develop a customized treatment that may include injections, antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroids or immunotherapy. Call 904-461-6060 to schedule a consultation today.

Got Hay Fever? Here’s Some Symptoms, Treatments, and Preventative Tips

The beginning of autumn marks the start of a lot of really great things for millions of Americans – beautiful, unearthly weather, diverse heritage celebrations and festivals, and new opportunities to quite literally “turn over a new leaf”.

But it also brings about an allergy season many people are forced to struggle through. In fact, while hay fever and other common allergens proliferate throughout the spring, fall allergens like ragweed pollinate starting in September and lasting, in some parts of the country, all the way until March.

Allergens like ragweed lead to hay fever for those who are most susceptible. Technically, it’s known as allergic rhinitis, and it comes with symptoms that are some of the most common and know in all those who are allergic – even if you don’t yet know you’ve got it.

Get tested to find out if you’re allergic to hay fever

In the St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat offices in St. Augustine, FL., Dr. DePasquale conducts in-house testing for those who suspect they may be allergic to or have contracted hay fever. So give us a call today to set up an appointment, or stop by.

We’ve got everything you need to get your allergies under control, whether it’s attributable to hay fever or something else entirely.

Some common hay fever symptoms

One of the first indications to a proper diagnosis is symptoms, and hay fever is pretty easy to identify. Heavy bouts of sneezing, itchy, irritated, or overly watery eyes, runny noses and nasal congestion are often experienced by those who are allergic.

These symptoms may become especially apparent depending on how much time you spend outside, and even where you live. If your home or office is in overly-wooded and condensed areas, like many parts of Tampa, for example, you may experience these symptoms more often if your even mildly allergic.

In-house hay fever treatments from St. Augustine ENT

We treat your symptoms right here, the day you come see us. Hay fever treatments may include a shot, prescription allergy or antihistamine medication, nasal decongestant, or corticosteroids.

In almost all cases, prevention and avoidance is the key to lowering your risk of attracting or contracting hay fever or other allergens in the months to come!

Here’s some tips for enjoying life this autumn without allergies:

Try to limit your exposure outside. We know, that sounds pretty dull. But doing simple things like keeping your windows up while driving, and wearing a pollen mask while doing yard work like mowing or raking leaves can have a substantial positive impact on your immune system.

Change your air filters more often. Your air filters are more prone to capturing and circulating mold and pollen during autumn than other season. Better yet, get your family a stand-alone in-home air filtration system, and place it in common areas like the living room.

Keep pollen outside. Our pets, clothes, and just about everything else that goes into and out of our home can attract and transport allergen-inducing pollen. Wash your clothes and take showers more often, and wash your dog, too. Drop your shoes off outside before walking through the door.