Do Weather Changes Make Us Feel "Under the Weather"


Why a coming storm causes sore joints

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It’s the ultimate irony. I love to write about weather, but today it is hard because I’m under the weather. Why do some weather changes make us feel awful? (And why do people say “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 awful?

People have known about the weather connection since Ancient Greece when Hippocrates, the “Father of Western Medicine” wrote about it. According to biometeorology, the science of weather and health, some theories of how winter storms can put you under the weather are…

  • Approaching storms and weather fronts change the air pressure. When atmospheric pressure decreases body tissues swell slightly. This can put increased pressure on joints and sinuses. 
  • Changing temperatures, specifically lowering temperatures, 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.

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.

Why Do People Say “Under the Weather”?

The actual idiom “under the weather,” of course has nothing to do with being rain or snow, but is used when people feel sick or unwell. 

It came from seafaring days, well before planes and automobiles. Bad weather tossing a ship could really make people seasick. Sick sailors and passengers were sent below deck where the rocking was less noticeable, 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

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

About The Author

James J. Garriss

With an academic background in international business, James is a writer, editor and researcher for Browning Media LLC, helping to present accurate climatological projections. Read More from James J. Garriss

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