People often complain of achy joints or migraine headaches as the weather changes, but is there any truth to it? Sudden changes in the weather can create unexpected hazards like slip and falls in a snow storm or sun stroke on a hot humid day. There is evidence that high temperatures with high humidity, especially in the very young and old, can trigger respiratory conditions causing shortness of breath and wheezing. Science has found that it is actually quick changes in more than one weather element that can affect mood, behaviour, heart attacks, strokes and even joint swelling.
Weather Connections to Health
Migraines – There is a seven times increase of migraines when the temperature increases by 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) and is combined with a falling (low) pressure system.
Heart Attacks – Cold winter weather constricts blood vessels and a drop of 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) corresponds with an additional 200 heat attacks. No snow shovelling if you have heart disease.
Swollen Achy Joints – A drop in barometric pressure which often happens in cold weather seems to cause soft tissues to expand slightly increasing pain and sensitivity in joint movement.
Sleep Apnea – If you are not using a CPAP machine, a drop in barometric pressure can lead to worsening sleep apnea. The CPAP machines actually manage your air way pressure to keep the pressure consistent.
Environmental Allergies – Pollen counts are higher after a rain storm, a winter thaw and a windy day.
MYTH BUSTER: Changes in the weather, colder temperatures, higher humidity, wind and rain have not been associated with a weakened immune system or vulnerability to colds and viruses.
Using Weather Medicine to our Advantage
- Check the highs and lows to make sure you are prepared to layer up or down
- Find things to do in all weather, don’t focus only on sunny weather as good weather
- Be sensible about when and how much outdoor work you do during extremes of weather
- Wear good shoes to avoid slips and falls from dampness, mud, ice or snow
- Use your pockets for extra gloves, and they are handy for cleanliness
- Carry a scarf for weather changes, sun protection or a chilly draft
Take this fun quiz to see what season is your best!
Cold Weather Health Benefits
- Improved Thinking . The brain uses more glucose energy in hot weather trying to stay cool.
- Weight management. We burn more 35% more calories hiking in the cold weather than on a sunny day.
- Better sleep quality. When the weather is cool we fall asleep easier and want to sleep longer.
Warm Weather Health Benefits
- Increased Vitamins. Sunlight exposure increases your vitamin D levels which support strong bone health
- Reduced Blood pressure. Our hearts and vessels take a break in warmer weather and our blood pressure drops.
- Good Mood. Sunlight signals your brain to produce more serotonin which is linked to improved moods.
Although we can’t control the weather, we can be aware of how the weather may controls us. Prepare for it, Embrace it and Work with it.