Can bad weather affect your overall health?

Can bad weather affect your overall health?

The weather in the Midwest can be unpredictable – flood warnings, thunderstorms and tornadoes aside, many people blame the extreme weather for everything from headaches to insomnia.

But, could wild weather swings really have an impact on your health?

Dr. Bruce Hyman, vice president of medical management at Elgin, Ill.-based Advocate Sherman Hospital, says yes.

“Many health issues are related to weather extremes — especially prolonged heat or cold waves, and marked rains that lead to flooding.”

Dr. Hyman cites four well-documented health issues tied to weather extremes:

  • Respiratory issues: Weather swings can lead to elevated allergens, which can affect symptoms of allergic rhinitis. But, wild weather can also wreak havoc on symptomatic asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic lung disease.
  • Spread of viral illnesses: Mild winters and hot summers have contributed to increases in dangerous diseases like West Nile virus. But, periods of cold weather also warming means people get out of their houses and socialize more. This can lead to the spread of illnesses such as influenza or norovirus.
  • Joint Pain: Changes in temperature and barometric pressure prevent joints from adapting to a stable temperature and pressure, which leads to more pain.
  • Cold/Flu: Common sense (and parents) tells people to dress appropriately for the weather, he says. But, periods of summer-like warming can fool us into leaving the house with a track jacket or sweatshirt, only to need a chinchilla-lined parka the next day. This rapid weather change and unpreparedness could give you cold or flu-like symptoms if you are not properly dressed when outside.

Dr. Hyman says that although you can’t change the weather, you may be able to better prepare for any ailments that may come with it.

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2 Comments

  1. Weather can also wreak havoc with those who have non-allergic rhinitis. Why didn’t you mention that? Non-allergic rhinitis is a very misunderstood condition. Many who have it do not know what is wrong with them. You do a disservice to those reading your advice by ignoring this condition.

    • Thank you for your comment Jim! We apologize that we were not able to talk about this condition in this story specifically, but think this would be a great topic for a future health enews story. Thanks for the suggestion!

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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.

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