Do you feel tired or exhausted? Do you suffer from headache? You may suffer from weather sensitivity symptoms.
Millions claim that the weather literally gets onto their nerves. Just because there is only limited scientific proof that weather sensitivity exists doesn’t mean that you are wrong and doesn’t mean that the medical profession should dismiss your plight as a psychological disorder. The sheer number of worldwide sufferers won’t be ignored any longer – and science is slowly catching up.
Up to 60% of Germans claim to be weather sensitive but only 30% of Americans do, and hardly any citizens of other countries. Why the discrepancy? Critics say that people, rather than blaming their unhealthy lifestyle, search for something else to blame. The media obliges and makes the subject of ‘weather and health’ a hot topic in some countries. Others argue that the greater awareness of weather sensitivity in countries such as Germany and the US allows their citizens to speak out without fear of ridicule.
Whether we like it or not, you and I are part of nature. We are not robots but biological beings, evolved over millions of years. Despite technology’s great efforts to detach us from nature, we are still subject to it, including the weather. Many animals and plants can sense changes in weather well in advance. Birds feel the drop in barometric pressure before the arrival of ‘bad’ weather and increase their foraging. Cats become restless, not only because they see Tweety foraging on the ground. Perhaps we have inherited some leftover weather sensitivity from our primeval ancestors as well.
A weather-sensitive person reacts with varying intensity to changes in weather elements, such as air pressure, temperature and humidity. These changes can affect a person’s wellbeing and may worsen the symptoms of existing disorders, in particular pain. Some of the effects are:
- Increased irritability and aggressiveness, anxiety, depression, listlessness, fatigue, lack of concentration
- Sleep disorders
- Headache and migraine
- Heart and circulation irregularities
- Scar pain or ‘phantom pain’
- Rheumatic pain.
The symptoms vary from person to person and their intensity generally increases with age, lower level of fitness and a body weakened due to illness. Of course, they can also mask or be the result of an underlying disorder that has nothing to do with being weather sensitive. Therefore, see your doctor if uncertain of the cause.
Patients who have had a heart attack are susceptible to weather sensitivity, sometimes extremely so. The rate is three times higher than it is in persons who never had a heart attack.
Sensitivity persists for two to ten years after the attack. Scientists are now trying to find the weather situation that most influences these patients. Also, they are not sure whether the sensitivity is a result of the heart attack or the precursor to future problems.
‘My grandfather’s rheumatic knee hurts; we will get rain.’ Many people trust their hips and knees and forecast the weather almost as accurately as can the meteorologists with their supercomputers. But why do some people respond to weather and others don’t? Many theories abound, many surveys have been completed and much research conducted. But scientists agree to disagree.
Rapid and frequent weather changes appear to be the main culprits. Statistical evidence links increased numbers of many disorders and behaviour to certain weather conditions. Biometeorologists subdivided the passage of weather fronts into weather phases and compared the occurrence dates of each phase with hospital records. They found and published some startling relationships between weather and health. Critics could not dismiss the statistical evidence as pure coincidence.
Weather-sensitive people become irritated a day or two before the change and are often miserable when a weather front arrives. The conditions favour childbirth, so a greater number of babies have their first glimpses of their parents during those weather conditions. Cases of suicides, heart attacks, bleeding ulcers, headaches and migraines all increase. Rheumatics dread the arrival of cold and damp weather, while cold and dry air aggravates asthma symptoms. Expanding air in isolated body cavities may explain some weather-sensitivity symptoms. The weather fronts have something for everybody, it seems.
Some scientists take a different approach in their quest to solve the puzzle. They believe that electromagnetic impulses have an effect on our wellbeing. Natural electromagnetism, strong enough to cause weather sensitivity, is present in lightning-induced atmospherics (sferics) and charged particles (ions).
If weather can make you sick, it is no wonder that mood, performance and behaviour are also affected. Schoolchildren seem restless and distracted before a significant change in weather. Performance suffers and unruliness increases. Hey kids – now you can blame the weather!
Of course, the same goes for adults. In addition to increased irritability, aggressiveness and lack of concentration, your reaction times are slower during cloudy, hot and humid days that have falling barometric pressure and dry winds. Your reaction times are best during days of high pressure, sunshine and comfortable temperatures.
What can you do about weather sensitivity? It is likely that we all benefit from the frequent stimulation of changing weather. The modern lifestyle, with air conditioners, humidifiers and heaters, however, blunts the weather ‘shocks’. In other words, we are no longer trained to cope with weather stress. Therefore, the best advice is to harden your senses by exposing them to the elements. Spend more time outdoors, in all kinds of weather. European medical professionals go even further and recommend stronger stimulants, such as saunas or alternating hot and cold showers.