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Driving with a Cold is As Dangerous as Driving Drunk

Driving with a Cold is As Dangerous as Driving Drunk

If your nose looks like a radish and your eyes are more watery than chicken soup at a bad diner, the only equipment you should be operating is a thermometer. The common cold, it turns out, is a car accident waiting to happen. The sneezing, tearing, fever, and puffy eyes make your reactions behind the wheel as slow and unsteady as a party-goer driving drunk, reports a United Kingdom team.

One reason: A single sneeze lasts 2 to 3 seconds and your eyes automatically close during the action. If you’re driving 70 miles an hour and go ah-ah-ah-choo, you’re driving blind for 308 feet. You don't need us YOU Docs to tell you that's scary. It also explains something we didn’t understand in the past: why getting a flu shot decreases car accident deaths. Here are 5 more reasons why you should get a flu shot this year.

North Americans get 1 billion colds each year, so you can bet many sneezing, blowing, dripping drivers will be bobbing and weaving down highways. Don’t be one of them.

What if you have a ferocious cold and absolutely have to go someplace? Do NOT take the nearest cold medicine without checking the warning label. Many cold medicines contain decongestants that can give you the shakes or make you nod off or respond slower. Instead, pick up the phone and ask a friend or a taxi service for a lift. Think you're more alert than you are? Know the tell-tale signs of driving while drowsy.

Once you’re back on your feet, stave off your next battle of the sinuses with this trio of cold fighters: Get 8 hours of sleep nightly, take 1,000 IU of virus-fighting vitamin D3 daily, and wash your hands like a maniac.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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