Millions of drivers at risk of hay fever medication side effects

Millions of drivers across the UK claim their hay fever symptoms are worse than ever this year, putting them at risk of potential medication side effects while driving, new research reveals.

Two fifths (41%) of the UK driving population – equivalent to nearly 17 million motorists(1) – knowingly suffer from hay fever, with nearly a third (30%) claiming their symptoms have been worse than usual this year. That’s according to new research from But this year has also seen an increase in people suffering possibly for the first time. Of those who don’t usually suffer from hay fever, a third (33%) have reported symptoms this year. Most (65%) have found themselves sneezing more often than usual, and two in five (42%) have experienced itchy or sore eyes.

To help curb their symptoms, hay fever sufferers have relied on medication, with more than half (53%) taking antihistamines. But these can come with dangerous side effects, such as drowsiness, especially if taken before driving. While most modern antihistamines are said to be ‘non-drowsy’, some people aren’t concerned about the difference. According to the research by, half (49%) of those suffering specifically choose non-drowsy antihistamines, but a third (33%) generally choose the cheapest on offer.

Most drivers who’ve taken medication to help with their hay fever symptoms have jumped behind the wheel afterwards, with more than a third (34%) suffering from side effects. Nearly two thirds (60%) of these drivers claimed their reactions were slower, while nearly half (46%) did suffer from drowsiness. More than a third (34%) even had issues with their vision.

But it seems that many people don’t know what type of antihistamines they should take, with one in five (22%) UK drivers unsure which tablets they can take and safely drive. And it can be especially confusing for people who are now suffering from hay fever for the first time, who may just be reaching for the first or cheapest option they see. research shows those suffering for the first time are more likely to be confused about the correct dosage, or which types they can safely take before driving. To clear up this confusion, has created a search tool outlining which types of medication can be taken safely, and which types are more likely to cause side effects.

It’s not just the medication that puts drivers at risk. According to the research, hay fever symptoms have caused issues for drivers, with nearly two in three (63%) sufferers sneezing while driving. One in six (17%) have had trouble with their vision, while one in 10 (11%) have had delayed reactions.

Experts(2) have explained why people are suffering with hay fever this year, claiming that pollen levels are particularly high due to the current lockdown conditions. It’s no secret that this year has provided some of the best weather the UK has seen in years, with temperatures set to reach 30 degrees and above this week. But with the country being on lockdown for more than three months, there’s been less pollution in the air. Under normal conditions, experts say that diesel particles in the air can “combine with the pollen in the atmosphere and drag it downwards”. So while the environment is in a much cleaner state, more people will be reaching for their tissues as a result.