It's tough enough to drive in downtown traffic, maneuvering to exits on highways or staying alert on the open road.

But motoring while sneezing, feeling scratchy eyes or dabbing a tissue on a runny nose can complicate things even more. That's doubly frustrating when the car contributes to the irritations.

Experts offer tips for fighting allergies in a vehicle, from equipment fixes to adjusting the air quality by rolling windows up or down.

ACDelco car battery company provides five treatments, while noting that "sneezing is a form of distracted driving." According to the Centers for Disease Control, "anything that takes your attention away from the road is a distraction."

More than 50 million Americans suffer from symptoms like sneezing during allergy season, which is in full swing, the company said. South Carolina is one of the worst states in the country for seasonal allergies, ACDelco noted.

Its "quick affordable tips to guard your vehicle against pollen and other airborne allergens this summer" consist of:

  • Replacing the cabin air filter, which when unclean can be a haven for mold and dust. ACDelco recommends drivers change their air filter every 22,500 miles under normal driving conditions, or more frequently in high-allergen states or driving on dirt roads.
  • Closing the windows on high pollen count days and turn on the air conditioning.
  • Checking for window cracks and weather stripping on doors. An insulated car can keep out unwanted irritants and mold.
  • Cleaning the carpet, seats, cup holders and windows. Keep the interior clean "to avoid an airborne allergic reaction," the company said.
  • Taking care of the outside of the vehicle; cleaning and waxing either at home or a car wash will remove airborne pollen buildup. 

How Stuff Works website also offer ways to allergy-proof your car.

Online writers Linnea Lundgren and Jeff Wald noted that "probably the last place you expect allergen overload is in your car. You don't live in it, (although sometimes it seems that way), but you do shed skin flakes, spill coffee and let mold spores in unknowingly."

Their suggestions include making sure carpeting is clean and dry, then cover it with plastic or washable floor mats. "Shoes can deliver plenty of junk to car carpets, including dirt, mud, grease, tar, pollens, rainwater, and snow," How Stuff Works said.

Another recommendation is to check out bad smells, such as looking underneath the seats "for any moldy, long-forgotten French fries or other foods." Air-conditioning ducts can also be the source of odors. Change the air filter or go to a service shop to have the ducts examined.

The website also says to "vacuum upholstered seats whenever you wash the car, as they harbor dust mites just like your family-room couch. With all the sweating and shedding of skin you do while stuck in traffic, mites have a free ride." Furry, carpeted or wool-like seat covers can also attract dust and mold. "Leather seats are best for allergy sufferers, but they're not always affordable or practical," according to the writers.

During pollen season, air conditioning can help but only when it's on the recirculating cycle. Also, avoid air fresheners, which can have chemicals that irritate nasal cavities.

New cars can house allergy-causing particles, so it's best to leave the windows rolled down for a few days. "You may be fond of that new car smell, but those fumes come from the new carpets, new upholstery, and molded plastics and can be irritants," Lundgren and Wald pointed out.

Other tips include clearing dust from the dashboard and wiping off window film. Also, consider using a crate to carry an pet in the vehicle. "It's not only safer for the animal, but it will (somewhat) reduce the amount of fur and dander flying throughout the car," they said.