A Word with the DOCTOR
by Dr John Winsor
The Sunday Times of Malta

PATIENTS often want to know whether their illness or the treatment they are receiving. will affect their ability to drive.

Specific advice must always be given by a doctor who knows the patient's medical history and nature of their illness but there are some general guidelines.

First, it is always best to assume that anyone taking prescribed drugs should not drive.

One major problem is that many drugs can cause drowsiness. Obviously tranquillisers and sleeping tablets are likely to produce this particular problem. But the same effect can be caused by remedies prescribed for colds, coughs and allergies such as hay fever.

For the first 48 hours after starting drug treatment, assume that you'll be unsafe. Then just wait and see how you feel after a couple of days. However, if your doctor or pharmacist warns you that sleepiness is a recognised problem with the drug you're taking, then you must avoid driving altogether.

If you've been into hospital for surgery or treatment of any kind, then it's wise to allow ten days before you start driving again. The anaesthetic will usually wear off fairly quickly but there will inevitably be some tiredness after a hospital stay.

To drive in the first place, you need to be fit, healthy, strong and able to cope with unexpected problems and emergencies.

However, there are two specific illnesses that I must mention. Anyone who has had a heart attack would probably be wise to avoid driving for two months or so. When you do start driving again, do so in quiet, off-peak traffic.

Anyone who gets heart pain caused by stress or excitement really would be best advised to avoid driving altogether. Driving can produce tremendous periods of stress and a heart attack at the wheel can be a lethal experience for a lot of people.

Epileptics are usually told that they can drive if they have had no attacks for at least three years. But, of course, they should stay off the road if their treatment is being changed.

Those hints will, I hope, prove of some help. But the golden rule must always be if you are in doubt, then don't drive! It isn't only your own health that you're putting at risk.