Weather and Health -What's Your Forecast?

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), February 10, 2004 | Go to article overview

Weather and Health -What's Your Forecast?


Byline: SANDRA CHAPMAN

Does cloudy, winter-like conditions damage our health? Is schizophrenia caused by mothers being deprived of sunshine during pregnancy? Can hot, dry winds increase anxiety and aggression? A new book* provides some of the answers.

WE have often been told that germs and genetics are the main cause of illness, but a new book reveals that this is not the whole truth.

Weather and climate play a significant role in many of the complaints we suffer from today.

Understanding how and why this occurs is known as biometerology and even the NHS is now using weather forecasts to better predict how many patients they will have to treat.

Under the Weather, by Pat Thomas, is a comprehensive exploration of the numerous ways in which weather and climate affect our health both positively and negatively.

Fifty years after the first televised weather forecast, Pat Thomas gives us a new perspective on our relationship with the weather, exploring atmospheric conditions such as temperature, wind speed and precipitation as well as geographical factors including altitude, latitude, time of day and time of year.

She tells us that changeable weather patterns can cause heart attacks, strokes, respiratory illness and infectious diseases as well as exacerbating existing conditions including arthritis, back pain and migraine.

Schizophrenia and manic depression are said to worsen with weather change and crime and suicide rates are also affected.

And this, she assures us, is just the tip of the iceberg!

One in three of us is weather-sensitive.

Women are generally more weather-sensitive than men and children seem to be much more sensitive than adults.

SCARS Scars can be weather sensitive. After being stabbed during a tournament, tennis player Monica Seles said she could feel an impending change in weather at the site of her scar. It tingles when rain is coming.

MIGRAINE More than half of all migraine patients believe weather is a trigger for their headaches.

BEHAVIOUR Aspects of our behaviour change with the moon's cycle. We eat eight per cent more and drink 26 per cent less at the full moon compared to new moon periods. We also make more doctor appointments at full moon.

STROKE Cold weather is responsible for more deaths than hot. Estimates suggest that rates of sudden death and stroke in midwinter (January and February) are at least 35 per cent greater in winter than summer.

CHILLS A nip of something on a cold winter's day does not help take the chill away. Initially it may appear to do so but alcohol consumption is counter-productive to the body's own cold-survival mechanisms and will actually result in core body temperature dropping. …

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