Allergies have been on the rise over the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Studies show that nearly half of all Americans are sensitive to one or more allergen.
“The pollen season seems to be coming earlier - for certain pollens it seems to be lasting longer - and we are seeing higher peak pollen levels for certain allergens,” said Dr. Nathanael Horne, an allergist at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. “If that trend continues, then this year will be worse than last.”
For that reason, Ford Motor Company is helping its customers combat allergies with new changes to their vehicles.
“Making cars that make you feel healthier make you feel like you’re in a clean environment and will help you drive longer and share the journey,” said Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader for open innovation.
Ford engineers tested more than 100 high-touch zones on select Ford vehicles - such as the steering wheel, seats and handles - for allergens. As a result, engineers stopped using certain contact allergens in their cars like latex, chromium and nickel, which Horne said will help reduce reactions.
“People will get an itchy rash; it can even be blistering – it could look like eczema, and it can be really irritating,” Horne said. “It will usually last a week or more before it resolves without treatment.”
Ford also installed cabin air filters to prevent particles from getting inside the vehicle, which reduces airborne allergy attacks.
“What we’ve done, is sort of look at the finest mesh type of filters – so that allows you to look at filtering away a whole set of particles,” Prasad said. “It includes pollen, other airborne allergens and so that’ show that gets filtered away. Now, your interior has well-filtered air, just like your home.”
Connecting a smartphone to the car’s sync app-link allows drivers to gain access to allergy information with one tap.
The voice-activated system can tell drivers pollen counts and risk levels for asthma, colds, flu and U-V rays.
Can’t get a new car just yet? Horne said there are some easy ways to stay allergy-free this spring.
“Stay indoors, keep your windows closed, use your air conditioner instead of opening your windows and doors, take a shower at the end of the day and wash your eyes and nose with saline,” he said.