Whether it’s a migraine or a foul mood, many people believe that certain weather patterns can trigger wellness issues. If you have arthritis, for instance, you might find that your joint pain seems to flare up with certain temperatures or conditions. But does the weather impact our health, or is it just in our heads? Let’s take a look at some research to find out.
Colds & Flus
The CDC states that flu activity peaks from December to February, with the full season stretching from October to May. Is it a coincidence that these months also see the chilliest temperatures? Not according to 2015 research, published in Viruses. The study shows a correlation between plummeting temperatures and humidity levels and the uptick in infections. The theory is that breathing in poorly humidified air – hot or cold – can dry the nasal passages, thus decreasing resistance to viruses. Of course, the colder season also tends to restrict us to indoor activities, where we might be more likely to pick up germs from others. Even if chilly, dry weather does impact resistance, germs are still the culprit behind cases of flu and colds, so try to avoid direct contact with anyone who is sick and wash your hands frequently.
The triggers for migraines have long been debated, but those who experience them often cite weather patterns as a causative agent. While the verdict is still out on whether cold temps could affect these severe headaches, research has indicated that cluster headaches appear more frequently during transitions from winter to spring and spring to summer.
Feeling gloomy as a result of less sunshine? You’re not alone. More than 3 million people in the U.S. experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) each year, a condition characterized by depression which typically starts in the fall and persists through the winter. Reduced sunlight can affect the body’s circadian rhythm, serotonin levels, and melatonin, all of which influence mood. Symptoms of SAD include feeling sluggish, losing interest in your favorite activities, and feeling depressed most of the day, almost every day. Of course, dreary weather can also lead to some of these feelings on a less intense scale. If you think you could have SAD, however, don’t feel as if you have to “tough it out;” doctors can offer treatments such as light therapy to help you address the condition.
Pain from conditions like osteoarthritis is believed to be worsened by damp, cold weather. Some studies suggest cloudy, rainy weather indeed increases severe discomfort, but other research debunks this theory. Persistent pain caused by arthritis and other chronic conditions tends to wax and wane to begin with, which makes it challenging to establish a definitive link between weather patterns and aches. Still, the Cloudy with a Chance of Pain project, which aims to correlate chronic pain with the weather, suggests planning any burdensome activities around any weather patterns you believe to influence your pain levels.