7. March 2019
Driving with hay fever is as dangerous as drink driving

Most people with hay fever (allergic rhinitis) have a limited ability to focus on the road. In seven out of 100 people, hay fever symptoms are even a contributing factor to car accidents or near collisions.

Getting behind the wheel of a car while suffering from hay fever is tantamount to dangerous driving. This was the conclusion of a study conducted by the Allergy Centre Charité in Berlin, Germany. Professor Martin Church and Professor Torsten Zuberbier (chairman of the ECARF Foundation) asked more than 500 people with hay fever about how the disease impacts the way they drive.

  • Out of 100 people surveyed, 75 stated that the symptoms distracted them while driving. In 13 out of 100 people, the symptoms were so intense that they were unable to drive at all. Seven out of 100 even claimed that the disease was partly responsible for an accident that they caused or a risky situation that nearly resulted in an accident.
  • The majority of the study participants keep the windows and sunroof closed while driving in order to prevent pollen exposure. Less than half of them take allergy medications and only one third switches the air conditioner to recirculation mode in order to keep the outside air from entering the car.

Hay fever can therefore significantly impair driving. The study’s authors claim that the disease is just as dangerous as getting behind the wheel with a blood alcohol level of 0.5 grams per litre.

The study was commissioned and funded by the Berlin-based company Autoscout24. The survey included 262 men and 251 women from all over Germany. The authors published the results in the journal Allergy in February.


Allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever, is a widespread disease. It is caused by an allergic reaction in the body to certain types of grass or tree pollen. Animal hair, house dust mites and mould spores can also be triggers. Hay fever can appear at any age. The classic symptoms include itchy eyes and nose, sneezing and runny nose.


Church MK, Zuberbier T. Untreated allergic rhinitis is a major risk factor contributing to motorcar accidents. Allergy. 2019 Feb 11. [Epub ahead of print]