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Hay fever sufferers could be left seeing red with meds penalty points warning

By Alan Beresford

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THE Met Office pollen forecast for Scotland could give hay fever sufferers more than just watery eyes this weekend.

Pollen predictions show things could get very uncomfortable for sufferers, especially on Sunday when the pollen count is forecast to be raised to ‘high’ for all of Scotland, except the Orkneys and Shetland which will be at a ‘medium’ level.

Scottish hay fever sufferers who are vulnerable to grass pollen might be especially affected. Spores also in peak season now in Grampian and the Highlands, with weed pollen (nettle, dock and plantain) at medium risk in lowland areas.

The Met Office forecast has led to a warning from one of the country’s leading car insurance comparison website, concerned that most motorists are aware of the fact that ‘driving under the influence’ could result in hefty fines and points on their licence – but unaware there’s a risk they could end up committing this type of motoring offence without even realising it by using medication to counter hay fever.

According to Quotezone.co.uk, the government legislation that bans driving while under the influence, does not distinguish between illicit drugs, prescription medication and over-the-counter medications. This means any type of drug that affects a motorist’s driving abilities could potentially result in a drug-driving conviction, even if it’s something as simple as hay fever medication that causes drowsiness.

One in four people in the UK has hay fever, approximately 16 million people, according to the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation. Grass pollen is arguably the biggest cause of seasonal allergies, affecting approximately 90 per cent of hay fever sufferers – with peak season from mid-May until July.

The region’s hay fever sufferers could consider the following advice before getting behind the wheel:

  1. Check your medication- antihistamines and hay fever medications can differ in strength, check with your doctor if in any doubt about possible side effects and always read the label – the warning, ‘do not operate heavy machinery’ is commonly found and applies to cars, forklifts and any other heavy machinery.
  2. Plan your journeys –check the Met Office Pollen warnings or download the weather app, which gives a five-day forecast, for high pollen counts.
  3. Don’t take non-urgent journeys – if you don’t feel well or the pollen count is high, play it safe.
  4. Keep your car as pollen-free as possible – clean your car as much as possible to get rid of dust that could trigger symptoms before setting out, regularly change pollen filters in your car’s ventilation system and keep car windows closed during journeys.
  5. Drive safely– better to err on the side of caution, giving lots of space to fellow road users and taking breaks if hay fever symptoms start.

Greg Wilson, Founder of Quotezone.co.uk, warne: “Most people assume that the term ‘drug-driving’ refers to driving while under the influence of illicit narcotics, but the truth is that driving after taking any type of drug, could result in a motoring conviction if the motorist’s driving abilities are impaired.

“While some hay fever medications are non-drowsy, some types do cause drowsiness, and some prescription hay fever tablets in particular carry a ‘do not operate heavy machinery’ warning. If a driver fails to obey this warning and gets behind the wheel, they could risk a hefty fine of up to £5,000 as well as points on their licence.”

Tree pollen is typically from late March to mid-May, grass pollen lasts from mid-May until July then weed pollen tends to be from the end of June to September - dependent upon where you live, for example urban areas have lower counts than the countryside, and coastal areas have lower counts than inland.

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