The dangers of driving while sneezing; drug-free pain relief; the positive side of nicotine patches 

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 an automobile 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 who’s pounded back several drinks, reports a UK team.

One reason: A single sneeze lasts two to three seconds, and your eyes automatically close during it. If you’re driving 70 miles an hour and go “ah-ah-ah-choo,” you’re driving blind for 315 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 flu shots decreases accident deaths.

North Americans get 1 billion colds each year. So you can bet that 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 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.

Once you’re back on your feet, stave off your next battle of the sinuses with this trio of cold-fighters: Get eight hours of sleep nightly. Take 1,000 IU of virus-fighting vitamin
D-3 daily. And wash your hands like a maniac.


Pain can stop you in your tracks faster than Dwyane Wade’s sprained ankle sat him on the Miami Heat’s bench. When pain is the kind that won’t quit (a chronic bad back or arthritic joint), painkillers — even prescription ones — aren’t always enough. Or they make you feel weird and uneasy. Or maybe you just don’t want to take them.

When that happens, try breaking the pain cycle with self-calming techniques — and we don’t mean downing a glass of wine.

Persistent pain constantly pumps up your levels of stress hormones. That makes your brain think the pain is worse than it actually is. Soon you’re on a not-so-merry-go-round of ever-increasing stress hormones and escalating pain perceptions.

How to get off the carousel? Dial back those pain-boosting stress hormones by listening to music, practicing mindfulness meditation and through gentle exercise.

n If you’re tightly wound, listening — really listening — to soothing music will relax and distract your body and brain, taking attention away from the pain, allowing it to settle down.

n Or try mindfulness, a kind of meditation in which you sit quietly, eyes closed, and focus only on how each breath feels (in, out, in, out). When other thoughts intrude, gently refocus on breathing. After 10 minutes or so, begin to notice your surroundings as you quietly breathe. Then go about your day with this feeling of calm awareness. You’ll find that pain isn’t running you over.

n Movement also reduces pain sensitivity. Water exercises or gentle yoga can help stop your whole body from becoming a pulsing pain generator.

Easy. Effective. Worth a try.

Nicotine patches get bad rap

“Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a hundred times!” If you’ve tried to stop puffing on coffin nails, Mark Twain’s quotation rings oh-so-true. But we YOU Docs know how you can get off the nicotine merry-go-round. In a nutshell:

  1. Set a quit date 30 days from now.
  2. Start walking every day. You’re building discipline and heart and lung health.
  3. Get an Rx for anti-craving pills (like buproprion) from your doc.
  4. Find a support buddy — ideally someone else who wants to quit; you’ll help each other.
  5. Begin using a nicotine patch the day you quit.
  6. What about the new report “proving” that nicotine patches (and gums, lozenges) don’t work? Baloney. It compared people who quit using nicotine replacements with folks who quit cold turkey. Both groups fell off the nonsmoking wagon at about the same rate. That doesn’t mean patches don’t work.
  7. That logic is as twisted as Snooki’s bra strap after a night on the town. They didn’t measure quit rates. They measured return-to-smoking rates of quitters. Plus, we know long-term success doesn’t happen that often with nicotine replacement alone.


DUI of sneezing

New research helps explain why flu shots decrease accident deaths

2-3 seconds How long a sneeze lasts

315 feet How far you drive while sneezing at 70 mph

Zero What you see while sneezing — nothing, your eyes automatically shut

The YOU Docs, Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic, are authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to

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