What really happens to your body when the weather changes

BY LAUREN SCHUMACKER

April showers bring May
flowers, as the saying goes, right? Well all of those weather changes can wreak
serious havoc on your body, health, and overall wellbeing. Some people swear
that they can feel pain deep in their joints when a rainstorm is brewing.
Others suffer from debilitating seasonal allergies and asthma as pollen counts
climb and the weather gets warmer.
While science hasn’t
conclusively determined the link (or if there even is a link to begin with)
between rain and rheumatism, the large number of people who claim to experience
pain, discomfort, and swelling suggest that it’s possible that there could be a
connection. Allergies and asthma have a more established connection to weather
changes. Seasonal allergies are often caused by pollinating plants and,
according to pollen.com, there are different types of pollen based on which
plants are pollinating at a given point over the course of the year. Levels can
be higher or lower based on where you are, so if you suffer from seasonal allergies,
you may want to research what pollen levels will be at your destination.
Changing weather also affects
your body in other ways, some of which are potentially much more dangerous.
From headaches to heart attacks, here’s what can really happen to your body
when the weather changes.
Blood pressure is affected by
pressure systems




Your blood pressure can change
due to a number of different reasons and weather is no exception. As Jennifer
Vanos, an assistant professor of geosciences at Texas Tech University told The
Weather Channel, changing weather pressure systems also cause your blood
pressure to change. This can, in turn, lead to other conditions.
Additionally, a study
published in the European Heart Journal found that cold weather might cause
your blood pressure to spike, in part due to the narrowing of blood vessels
that happens in colder temps.
Headaches may spike



As someone who has long
suffered from chronic headaches, I know all too well that weather can cause
headaches or even migraines. Extreme weather changes, blinding sunshine, and
pressure-changing storms can all cause migraines, while headaches can spike in
cold weather due to the constriction of blood vessels in the brain, according
to the Mayo Clinic.
A study published in the
journal Headache, also found that weather can affect headaches and migraines, with
some people sensitive to multiple different types of weather changes. Knowing
that your headaches or migraines might be caused by the weather can help you
stay ahead of any pain, so that you can avoid them entirely or act quickly to
treat them right away.

Sleep increases in the fall



According to a study published
in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, hypersomnia, which is the exact
opposite of insomnia, can peak for some people when the air starts to crisp up.
Researchers found that participants in the study slept nearly three hours more
each day in October than at any other time of the year.
You would think that means
that in the fall we’re more well rested, right? It turns out that isn’t
entirely true. In the fall you sleep more, but you’re less rested, as the study
also concluded that the darkening of the days and increased rain causes you to
feel sleepier and groggier during the day.
Inflammation increases in the
winter




According to a study published
in Nature Communications, the way your DNA functions (thanks to a process
called gene expression) changes as the seasons do. In the winter, when the
weather gets colder outside, that means increased inflammation. The change is
designed to help your body be better equipped to fight off colds and flus. In
the summer, your cells are instructed to retain water and burn fat. That’s
right, your actual DNA changes when the weather changes. That’s major.
The season may impact the sex
of your baby




While you might think that
your chances of having a boy or a girl are fairly evenly split, that may not
actually be true. According to a study published in Biology Letters, you’re
more likely to conceive a boy during warm parts of the year and more likely to
conceive a girl when it’s colder.
That means that years (or
seasons) that are exceptionally or unseasonably warm or cold could have an
impact on the makeup of the general population, an interesting thing to
consider while studying the effects of changing climates on human health and
wellbeing.
Dry skin increases in the
winter




Does your skin get painfully
dry in the winter? Mine too. California-based dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse
told Women’s Health that that’s because the air outside is drier, which means your
skin isn’t getting the moisture it normally gets from the environment when it’s
warmer and more humid outside.
“Strong winds will dry
and irritate the skin and potentially damage the skin’s protective lipid
barrier,” Dr. Shainhouse said. Moisturizer’s your friend all year, but
especially in the winter.
Suicide increases in the warm
months




Suicide rates rise and fall as
the weather changes, as well. Grady Dixon, Ph.D., a biometeorologist who
studies how weather and climate change impact emotional health, told The
Weather Channel that suicides are highest in late spring and early summer.
A study published in
Epidemiology found that in the northern hemisphere, when it’s sunniest in the
summer, suicide rates peak in June, while in the southern hemisphere, where
seasons are flipped, suicide rates peak in December.
Heart attacks increase in
colder months


Heart attack risk is higher
when it gets colder outside, according to Harvard Health Letter. Because of
this increased risk, minimizing your added risk is important.
Your blood flow slows when the
weather is cold, which can make your heart muscle to try harder to get the
oxygen-rich blood it needs. Avoiding situations that might makes things worse
can limit your chances of having a heart attack.
Energy levels decrease in the
winter




Have you ever noticed that you
get a little bit sad and lethargic in the winter, when there’s much less
sunlight? That’s a real disorder, called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
According to an article published in Psychiatry, higher levels of melatonin
coupled with lower levels of serotonin make you feel sleepier and less happy in
the colder months.
Blood sugar is less stable
when it’s cold




When your blood thickens as
the temperature falls, you might have a harder time keeping your blood sugar at
a fairly stable level as well.
Vanos also told The Weather
Channel that “[d]iabetics will have more trouble controlling their blood
sugar during cold fronts.” Since controlling the disease hinges on being
able to control your blood sugar, that can be problematic.
Your hair and nails are weaker
in cold weather




Just like cold weather affects
your skin by drying it out, your hair and nails are affected too. “In cold
weather, the small blood vessels on your skin, fingers, and toes become more
narrow, reducing the flow of blood and the delivery of nutrition and
oxygen,” Dr. Xiang Li, an internist at Tri-City Medical Center in
California, told Women’s Health. Less oxygen-rich blood means weaker hair and
nails, which can also dry out when temperatures drop.
Breathing difficulties can
increase in extreme temperatures




You might find it hard to
breathe when it’s either too warm and humid or too cold and you aren’t alone.
According to a blog post that Dr. Oz penned for The Huffington Post, cold air
causes small cracks to form in the lining of your bronchial tubes, which makes
it hard and painful to breathe.
And when it’s hot and humid
outside, the air can feel heavier, which makes breathing taxing. Add pollution
to that and it gets even more difficult. According to the American Lung
Association, this is especially true for those who have pre-existing lung
conditions.
Your immune system is weaker
in the winter




When it gets cold, your immune
system weakens, according to a study from Yale University. Cold weather weakens
immune defenses present in your nose, which are supposed to be the first to
fight off cold and flu viruses.
This study shows that there
might be a biological link between increased rates of colds and winter
temperatures, rather than just that people get colds because they spend more
time in close contact in the winter.
Changing weather changes your
health status




When the weather changes and
it gets cold or hot, it gets humid or dry, or the pressure changes, it affects
your body. You might be more likely to get sick, you might suffer pain or
discomfort, or it might raise your risks of developing certain conditions.
The weather outside affects
people much more personally than just what you need to wear or if you need to
grab an umbrella. Knowing how weather can affect you allows you to take control
of your health—or at least know why things are happening the way they are.





SOURCE: THE LIST
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.