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Winter is on its way, and, with it, a greater risk of catching a cold.
Carrying on with daily life is tough when you’re suffering from a cold, and it’s not much fun if you have to drive with one, either.
By cold here, we mean a fairly mild case of the seasonal sniffles; the type that makes you feel slightly under the weather but doesn’t stop you from going about your everyday business.
Most of us do manage to struggle on with cold symptoms, but before you get behind the wheel, you should first ask yourself “am I well enough to be in control of a vehicle?”
Driving at the best of times demands that we react to lots of stimuli – often all at once – so if you’re not feeling 100% ,then your responses and concentration levels might not be as sharp as they should be.
Over the counter medicines can relieve cold symptoms such as headaches, congestion, sore throats and tickly coughs, enabling you to battle on, but check first that whatever you’re taking is non-drowsy.
Some cough syrups contain drugs such as pholcodine or dextromethorphan, which are designed to suppress the body’s coughing reflex. These ingredients can make you sleepy and less able to focus, so look out for any warning labels on the box advising you not to drive or operate machinery. Similarly, remedies containing antihistamine, used to alleviate the symptoms of conditions such as nasal congestion and hay fever, also come in drowsy and non-drowsy varieties. If you’re not sure if your medication will affect your ability to drive safely, then ask to talk to a pharmacist first.
Think twice about driving, too, if your cold is making you sneeze. Sneezing is one of the most dangerous things that you can do behind the wheel, as it means you can’t help temporarily closing your eyes. Scarily, research has shown that if you sneeze while driving at 60mph, you can travel at least 50 feet along the road with your eyes shut. That’s another good reason for always leaving plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front.
The urge to sneeze can come on even when you don’t have a cold, and if it does, you should try, if possible, to pull over on to the side of the road.
If you’re feeling too unwell to go to work, you really shouldn’t be driving – for your sake and the sake of everybody else. It’s not safe to be blowing your nose or supressing a hacking cough while in the driver’s seat, and, if your cold symptoms are considered a factor in a road accident which results in death or serious injury, then you could face charges.
It also goes without saying that if you’re unlucky enough to catch flu you must stay off the roads.
Flu is a particularly debilitating viral illness and if you’ve got it, you should be tucked up in bed, getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids. Don’t even think about going anywhere near your car until you’re fully recovered.
Hopefully, you will stay well this winter and avoid the usual round of coughs and colds, but if you do succumb, avoid driving if you don’t feel up to doing it safely.
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