Under the Weather: Weather and Illness

Share: 

Rate this Post: 

Average: 4 (4 votes)
Sick Frog

It’s the ultimate irony. I love to write about weather but today it is hard because I’m under the weather.

A storm front is passing through and my head is doing an excellent imitation of an exploding nuclear warhead. During the few pathetic moments that I can think, I wonder why. Why do weather fronts make some people feel so bad?

Sometimes the changing air pressure and temperatures from passing weather fronts make people feel awful. Why?

People have known about the weather connection since Ancient Greece when Hippocrates, the “Father of Western Medicine” wrote about it. However the actual phrase “under the weather” for being sick didn’t come until seafaring days, when bad weather tossing a ship could really make people seasick. Sick sailors and passengers were sent below the weather deck, the surface deck, so they were “under the weather”.

The term “under the weather” is a seafaring term from when rough weather could leave you feeling seasick. Source: Willem van de Velde II, 1707

According to biometeorology, the science of weather and health, some theories of how winter storms can put you under the weather are…

Approaching storms lower the air pressure. When atmospheric pressure decreases body tissues swell slightly. This can put increased pressure on joints and sinuses.

Low temps can cause blood vessels to narrow, raising blood pressure. Indeed, a study in BMJ reported that, due to higher blood pressure, a high risk of clotting and shoveling snow, the nation has an additional 200 heart attacks for each drop of 1°C (1.8°F)

Low temperatures also causes blood viscosity, or thickness. Your blood pressure gets a double whammy. It also makes it a bit more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugars during cold fronts.

Blood isn’t the only fluid to thicken. Joint fluids thicken increasing that stiff, throbbing feeling.

Many people swear they are more likely to catch cold which leads some doctors to wonder if the immune system is weakened.

Here’s some good news: When you are out in the cold, your body burns calories.

All of these are theories and many scientists claim the medical evidence is still unclear. The weather changes are slight, don’t affect all people and hard to prove. Some dismiss it all as just being in your mind.

So remember – being under the weather is not science.  Try telling that to granny and her aching weather knee. Good luck!

~ By  Evelyn Browing Garriss and James J. Garriss

About This Blog

Evelyn Browning Garriss doesn't just blog about the weather forecast; she provides insight on WHY extreme weather is happening--and a heads up on weather to watch out for. A historical climatologist, Evelyn blogs about weather history, interesting facts about the weather, and upcoming climate events that affect your life--from farming to your grocery bill. Every week, we look forward to another great weather column from Evelyn. We encourage our weather watchers to post their comments and questions--and tell us what they think!

Comments

Add new comment

This article is the best

This article is the best explanation of what atmospheric pressure changes can do to your body. It explains in deeper, clearer terminology just how the decreases and increases in weather pressure (i.e.,passing weather fronts, not just rain/snow and sunny high pressure days)can change the conditions in your body and under your skin. Thanks, now please tell us what we can do to ease the discomfort. Can you preempt the pain by watching for drops in barometric pressure or wait until its unleashed its full awesome fury on your body before you give into medicated help? Anyone out there with opinions, pro and con on this matter? I'd like to hear what the general consensus is on the subject.

Free Almanac Newsletters

Weather, sky watch, gardening, recipes, good deals, and everyday advice!