Everyone knows about the health risks associated with a career on the road — accidents and obesity threaten all truck drivers. But what many drivers don’t know is that years spent driving a truck can change your body in ways you’d never expect.
1. Your fingers might turn white sometimes. You might not realize it when you’re driving, but you are being exposed to massive amounts of vibration for hours on end. And that kind of exposure can have a startling effect called Raynaud’s phenomenon (also know as “wax finger” or “dead finger”), meaning that one or more of your fingers could turn completely white and numb temporarily, especially when exposed to cold. This is caused by a severe decrease in blood circulation. It isn’t dangerous as long as you keep an eye on it, but gangrene could be your worst case scenario if you aren’t vigilant about Raynaud’s.
2. You might be sleeping with your eyes open. When you’re sleep deprived (and what truck driver isn’t?) your brain sometimes performs a sneaky trick to get the rest it needs. The phenomenon, called microsleep, means that your brain goes offline for a few seconds — and you might not even be aware of it. Microsleep is obviously an incredibly dangerous phenomenon, but it is your body’s way to sneak in even a few seconds of sleep when you tell yourself to keep driving past the point of extreme fatigue.
3. The left side of your body might age faster than the right. Crazy as it sounds, yes, unless you are incredibly vigilant about wearing sunscreen, the damaging rays of the sun coming in through the driver’s side window will actually make that side of your face age more quickly. The same effect can happen on your left arm, too. You’ve been warned — don’t skip sunscreen! Hats that help to shade your face help, too.
4. You might have a harder time having a kid if you’re a man. Studies suggest that sitting in the driving posture for more than 3 hours per day can actually lower male fertility by increasing the heat exposure to sperm cells. This could make it more difficult for you to start a family (or to add a new addition to your family).
5. You can become hypnotized by the road — and even lose some short-term memory. Highway hypnosis, or white line fever, is an altered state of conciousness that takes place when you’re driving down a monotonous road. One major symptom? You arrive at your destination, but you don’t really have solid memories about how you got there (which is scary and dangerous for you and the drivers sharing the highway with you). Highway hypnosis is about more than just physical fatigue. Experts say it is a mental focus and concentration issue, so caffeine and other stimulants might not really help to keep your brain on task.
Canadian Center For Occupational Health and Safety
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute