How does weather affect your health?
Dr. Douglas Street, Contributor
We know that our lifestyle decisions have a tremendous impact on our health and we have control over these decisions. But what about changes in atmospheric conditions, which we have very limited direct influence over, do they affect our health as well?
During the later months of the year when it is cooler and wetter, there is usually an increase in the number of cases of gastroenteritis, influenza, colds and asthmatic attacks. It is generally thought that the cooler temperatures are responsible for this phenomenon.
However, scientific studies done under controlled conditions have failed to prove this. Some authorities believe that persons are in proximity to each other during that time of the year and this may be the reason these contagious viral diseases are more common at that time of the year.
It may be, though, that the studies that were done just failed to replicate real-life conditions and, therefore, failed to show the connections of the lower temperatures and these diseases. The cooler temperatures may well suppress the body's immune response. It is well known, though, that the cooler temperatures and the viral respiratory illnesses may trigger an asthmatic attack.
Joint pains also seem to be impacted by, not only temperature changes, but also changes in atmospheric pressure and humidity. Warmer climates tend to improve joint pain so much so that some person with significant arthritis actually move to areas of warmer temperature to take advantage of this. Also, some persons get worsening of joint pains when a storm is imminent due to the drop in atmospheric pressure.
Non-allergic rhinitis may also be aggravated by changes in temperature and humidity. Those affected may think it may be due to allergens in the air that are more prominent during those cooler seasons but find no relief from allergy medications. A normal saline nasal rinse may prove more effective.
Heat is not always good though, especially for the older adults and young children. These individuals do not regulate their temperature as well and/or can't respond appropriately to potentially harmful temperature changes and are, therefore, at risk during the very hot months. If there is dehydration the risk becomes even greater.
Migraine sufferers, not to be left out, tend to have more attacks when atmospheric pressure drops also and tend to have less trouble in areas where there are fewer swings in this pressure.