Many folks experience carsickness, or other types of motion sickness from being in airplanes, trains, elevators or boats. This condition can be relieved with an antihistamine known as Dramamine—a drug discovered by scientists at Johns Hopkins Hospital for patients suffering from hives. It was also extremely important during WWII to prevent troops from becoming seasick.

There’s another kind of carsickness I call “sick car syndrome.” I believe that sick car syndrome may contribute to auto accidents by causing the driver to become mentally confused. But while toxic chemicals, rather than alcohol consumption, may be the cause of some accidents, by all means do not drink and drive!

Folks spend a great deal of time to and fro in automobiles. They are constantly exposed to environmental pollutants. Cars today have heaters, air-conditioning systems, and other ventilation systems that draw in air from the outside. I am sure that you have had the experience of sitting in your car behind a bus, truck, or outdated car and smelling the gas fumes leaping out at you. Those gases are toxic and that is why they are exhausted to the outside.

Many folks, however, are allergic to the hundreds of chemicals in the exhaust. These irritants affect the eyes, skin, nasal passages and respiratory system. If the filters of the air conditioning system in your car are not adequately cleaned, you may be exposed to mold and other infectious agents. This is what’s known as the “sick car syndrome.”

In the winter, particularly, when all windows are closed tightly, toxic substances in your car can become highly concentrated, resulting in symptoms that may be misinterpreted as viral or bacterial infections. Because of my background in industrial toxicology, I have always been aware of environmental causes of diseases. For example, asthma and bronchitis can be produced by dry cleaning fluid that is present in clothing that you have just picked up from the cleaners. Those clothes should be aired out properly before putting them in your home closet.

Car deodorizers that are sold to mask bad odors by giving off scents ranging from strawberries to a new car smell are actually saturated with chemicals that can vaporize, due to the car’s heating system, and trigger asthma or bronchitis. This allergic reaction may cause a runny nose and itchy eyes, and an antihistamine is not the answer. One should take this very seriously when transporting children or babies.

You can prevent sick car syndrome by airing out your car and not driving with the windows so tightly closed, especially during the winter months.

For more health tips and access to an online community of physicians and other healthcare professionals visit:

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply