Do You Feel a Storm Coming? Weather Can Have an Impact on Health

If your achy joints make you think the weather is changing, you may not be imagining it. Weather can impact your health; the science is called biometeorology.

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Do You Feel a Storm Coming? Weather Can Have an Impact on Health
3 Min Read June 13th, 2022

You might remember your grandmother, maybe your parents, or even yourself saying they could predict the weather based on the pain level of their joints. 

Older people tend to flock to warmer weather. Those who live primarily in the north tend to 'snow bird' if they can afford to do so. The warmer weather feels better, especially for older people. Our metabolism slows down when we get older, leading to decreased energy. When we have low energy, we feel colder. Plus, as we get older, the layer of far under our skin gets thinner, which makes you more susceptible to cold

Biometeorology is the science that examines the interactions between the weather and our health. If your joints hurt when a storm is coming, then you know that weather changes affect your health. It is real and more research is being done in this area.

Feeling Moody or Depressed?

Weather can have an impact on our mood. For example, high temperatures can increase an individual's negative feelings like irritability, anxiety, and depression. Seasonal affective disorder is an actual condition where seasonal changes can cause depression (usually lack or limited sunlight). Some people have the opposite effect, where too much sun can cause depression. 

Grady Dixon, Professor and Dean, Werth College of Science, Technology, and Mathematics at Fort Hays State University, quoted in an article on weather.com that what weather events do to the body is an imprecise science that's still developing, particularly when it comes to pain and emotional health.

 

When weather changes, it's not often just one variable that changes. Is a change in temperature that's affecting a person well-being? Or is it the change in wind or cloud cover? It's hard to figure out which change is affecting humans, and because we're largely relying on human perceptions, trying to quantify how these changes affect humans is another challenge.

Grady Dixon

Do Your Joints Ache?

Joint pain is the most talked about weather-related health problem. People talk about it - a lot. Dr. Ryan DeCoons is an orthopedist at Augusta University Medical Center. Dr. DeCoons says the link between joint pain and changes in the weather remains hypothetical. However, barometric pressure appears to be the most likely explanation.  

There is no consensus on a scientific link between joint pain and weather changes. Yet, based on anecdotal evidence from patients, many experts believe there may be a link between the two.

Dr. Ryan DeCoons

Studies have connected weather changes and joint pain since people think there is a connection. People attribute any worsening pain to cold, damp, or rainy weather. However, most scientists believe that the most likely association between weather changes and joint pain is related to barometric pressure. 

DeCoons says that barometric pressure often drops before bad weather sets in. This lower air pressure pushes less against the body, allowing tissues to expand. These expanded tissues can put pressure on our joints.

Other Health-Related Weather Issues

Other basic health changes can be associated with the weather. These include:

  • Dry Skin - Cooler weather means there is less moisture in the air. Combine this with higher winds, and the result in dryer skin. Older people are more prone to dry skin problems due to aging. 

  • Vitamin D Deficiency - The body's primary source of Vitamin D is the conversion of cholesterol stored in the skin into Vitamin D3 by sun exposure. In the winter months, when there is less sunshine, we tend to stay indoors more. This deficiency results in muscle weakness, greater pain sensitivity, and sleepiness.

  • Breathing Issues - Cleveland Clinic says that changing weather can sometimes wreak havoc on your ability to breathe. In particular, rising heat and humidity can make it more difficult to catch your breath. Colder weather can create breathing problems as well. Most people can adapt to changing temperatures; however, some individuals will need medication to help them.

There are other weather-related health associations, including allergies, blood pressure fluctuations, cold and flu, eczema, headaches, and migraines, to name a few. 

The next time someone tells you that the weather is changing because of how they feel, don't laugh. You might be able to make the same weather predictions in the years ahead. 

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

Editor's Note

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