How Weather Changes Affect Health

Almost everyone understands the food they eat, how much they exercise, their exposure to sickness, how regularly they have physical exams at the doctor’s, and even genetics affect their health in a variety of ways, both positively as well as negatively. What many seem to forget, however, or are unaware of, is exactly how the weather can influence health. Specifically, how changes in the weather, including in temperature, can exacerbate health issues. Start reading to discover all there is to know now.

Cold And Flu

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The vast majority of individuals have heard the idea of a 'cold and flu season' before. This season tends to span the colder months of the year and hits its peak in December and January. But why does the weather changing to cold force more cases of the common cold and influenza to the surface? Surprisingly, it is less about the actual cold than it is how the cold forces individuals indoors and in close contact with others more often. This proximity over extended periods increases the chances of passing germs from one individual to another and is also why it seems once someone falls ill, the same sickness tends to spread quickly among those they spend time with most often, such as family members, colleagues, and other kids at school.

Headaches And Migraines

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A few of the popular causes of both headaches and migraines are dehydration, light, and constricted blood vessels in the brain. Changes in weather can influence all three of these. For instance, as the weather heats up in the summer and individuals spend more time outside, they are going to require more water to replace what is lost when sweating, and if they do not drink more, they are at a higher risk of dehydration. Light, of course, is more intense on a sunny day, in all seasons, and those prone to headaches or migraines often also exhibit sensitivity to light. Many are not aware cold weather will narrow blood vessels and reduce blood flow, which accounts for constricted vessels causing a headache. Finally, according to research, other common triggers for those who suffer from migraines includes changes in barometric pressure, temperature, and humidity, all of which are changes in the weather.

Joint Pain

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Research indicates joints can be quite sensitive to temperature and rapid changes in temperature, particularly when it gets colder. The cold causes muscles and ligaments to stiffen and adds extra pressure on joints, which can result in pain. This sensitivity to cold also applies to the drop in temperature before most storms, which is where the adage of someone feeling a storm coming 'in their bones' comes from.

Although cold weather is most often the culprit behind joint pain, it can also occur due to warmer weather. Specifically, spending an extended period in the heat can result in dehydration and less fluid in the joint, which can exacerbate issues with joint pain.

Allergies And Asthma

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Extreme weather, both cold and hot, can aggravate an individual’s asthma. Cold weather, in particular, can constrict the airways and make it harder to breathe even for those without asthma. Cold weather can also trigger seasonal asthma and cases of bronchitis as a result. Hot weather, on the other hand, can mean more exposure to air pollutants that can irritate cases of asthma.

When it comes to allergies and weather, it all depends on what the individual is allergic to. For instance, windy days can blow pollen into the air more, which can worsen someone’s hay fever. Moisture from humid days can make an individual’s allergy to mold or dust mites worsen in severity. Those with allergic asthma can find the increase in air pollution on hot days worse or experience difficulty when exercising when it is cold outside. Of course, the seasons also bring their own allergens, such as pollen in the spring and ragweed grass pollen in the summer and fall. Indoor allergens, of course, take over in the winter since the majority of individuals spend more time inside when it is cold out.

Eczema

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Eczema is an umbrella term used for a group of medical conditions that irritate or inflame the skin, such as psoriasis. There are quite a few different causes of eczema and ways to exacerbate symptoms, but one of the most common is the dry, cold air of winter. The lack of moisture in the air as well as the cold temperature first causes the skin to dry, which for individuals with eczema can result in cracked and bleeding skin, as well as red blotches upon using lotions to help bring moisture back if the air had enough of an impact. Warm and moist air, or even just warm air, can alleviate many symptoms of eczema. It can do this to a point where during the late spring and throughout the summer, an individual with eczema may not experience any symptoms whatsoever.

Blood Pressure

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Whether an individual realizes it or not, the weather and specifically, the temperature outside, influences blood pressure. As mentioned previously, blood vessels tend to tighten during the winter due to the cold. This forces the heart to work harder to move blood through the body’s veins, which typically results in higher blood pressure. However, when the weather starts to warm again, the blood vessels will expand, which means it takes less effort from the heart to pump blood throughout the body, and thus results in lower blood pressure. For the most part, the changes in blood pressure are subtle and are no cause for worry, but for an individual who has issues with blood pressure, such as hypertension or hypotension, they may wish to consult with their primary doctor to determine the best course of action to manage their situation.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a mental health condition also known as winter depression. Typically, patients who have it will not experience issues with their mental health most of the year, except during one particular period, which is often the end of fall and throughout the winter.

There are a few contributing factors to SAD, including levels of melatonin and serotonin, as well as an individual’s biological clock. The reduced amount of sunlight individuals are exposed to during the winter tends to disrupt their biological clock and can also result in reduced serotonin production, which can trigger SAD symptoms. The changes in seasons can also influence the production of melatonin, which plays a significant part in sleep patterns and mood.

Although the changes in weather may present imperceptible changes upon an individual’s health, as is often the case when it comes to blood pressure, it remains clear the weather does have an impact. Patients are encouraged to identify the changes that most affect them and take steps with their primary physician to manage the impact.