How to allergy-proof your car

March 21, 2014 12:00 AM

Spring has finally arrived, meaning many motorists are itching to hit the road and take advantage of the nicer weather. While the temperatures and the sunshine may be ideal for driving, the conditions are not so desirable for allergy sufferers. As the foliage begins to burst and flowers start to bloom, many people may experience sneezing, congestion, watery eyes and itchy throat or other symptoms that can not only affect your mood, but also hinder driving abilities due to distraction. This is not an uncommon issue, either. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 1 in 5 Americans have allergies that impact their daily lives. You may think that your car will protect you from tree, grass and weed pollen or mold spores, but you're not necessarily safe just because you're inside an insulated vehicle.

To ensure a comfortable and secure ride this season, it's crucial to keep up with scheduled maintenance. Here are some other measures you can take to prevent allergies from affecting your driving:

Clean and de-clutter
'Tis the season for spring cleaning, and that goes for your car as well. AARP Driver Safety advised first getting rid of any trash and then vacuuming the seats. It's especially important to vacuum the floor mats - moisture is tracked into the car from your shoes, which can create a breeding ground for mold spores. In fact, the organization recommended investing in plastic mats to replace the cloth ones as they're easier to clean and hold on to less moisture. Don't forget to dust off the dashboard. Even the exterior of your car should be wiped down, as any pollen stuck to it can be transferred inside your vehicle through the air filters.

Consider the air filters
One of the most important steps you can take to alleviate your allergies is regularly changing your air filters as they filter out pollen, dust and other irritants. Every vehicle is different, so consult the owner's manual to determine how often this is necessary. However, the Car Care Council advised replacing them every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. While some filters can be switched out easily with basic tools, it may be beneficial to seek assistance from a car air conditioning service technician to ensure proper installation. You can also invest in special pollen filters which once installed, will ensure a better breathing environment.

There are many reasons why this measure is important - and not just to reduce allergy symptoms. Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council, explained that when a cabin air filter is dirty or restricted due to debris, harmful substances can get trapped, causing people inside the automobile to inhale more fumes or other contaminants. Additionally, a clogged air filter may negatively impact the functionality of the HVAC system, and reduced airflow leads to issues with heating and cooling. This can also lead to long-term damage by corrosion to the heating and air conditioning systems, thus requiring a costly auto repair.

Ensure optimal insulation
Naturally, you shouldn't drive with your windows down during peak allergy season. However, even if you have them rolled up, irritants could be making their way into your automobile from outside if the windows aren't properly sealed. Make sure that there aren't any cracks or gaps in the windows that may let allergens leak in. Also, you'll want to verify that the weather stripping on your car is still intact. It helps to keep the air conditioning on during allergy season, but it's imperative to ensure that it's on the re-circulation setting so that the system isn't blowing a lot of air in from outside.

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