Sudden temperature changes, cold snaps, heat waves and even thunderstorms can all have a direct effect on certain conditions
Floods in December, snow in April, now a sudden rise to a balmy (mild, gentle) 33C… no one can accuse the weather of being boring.
But it’s not just your wardrobe it affects – sudden temperature changes, cold snaps, heat waves and even thunderstorms can all have a direct effect on certain conditions.
Here’s why, and what you can do about it.
A change in weather is one of the many triggers some migraine sufferers say can bring on attacks.
In a 2009 US study of 7,000 people, migraine risk was found to rise 7.5% for every 5C increase.
A smaller study also linked lightning to attacks, although no one knows why.
Slash your risk: You can’t do much about the weather but you can reduce your chances of an attack, according to consultant neurologist Dr Nicholas Silver of the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool.
“Triggers vary but most people have more than one, so avoid those you can. Common ones include caffeine, wine, stress or relief from stress, skipping meals, dehydration, too little sleep or lie-ins.
“Stop drinking caffeine and eat, drink and sleep regularly. Take your migraine medication as soon as the pain starts but avoid painkillers more than one day a week as these can cause rebound headaches. If migraines are still a problem, ask your GP about preventive drugs.”
Cold increases heart attack risk and the drop needn’t be drastic.
A fall of 1C at any time of year is associated with 200 extra heart attacks over the following 28 days, says the British Medical Journal.
Dr Gavin Donaldson, senior lecturer in respiratory medicine at University College London, explains: “When you go into the cold, blood vessels constrict, forcing water to leave circulation. Blood thickens and is more likely to clot, increasing heart attack risk.”
However, heart attacks are more likely in heat waves. “In hot weather, you lose water through sweat. This means there’s less water in your blood, so it’s more concentrated and likely to clot.”
Slash your risk: Being prepared is more important than actual temperature.
Dr Donaldson says: “Dress in layers so you can adjust to changes. Drink plenty of fluids when it’s hot to avoid dehydration and when it’s cold keep active. Have your annual flu jab – flu increases the risk of a heart attack in people with heart disease.”
People who suffer from lung diseases such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis are sensitive to temperature changes and it’s not just the cold that poses a danger.
We breathe harder in hot weather because it takes more energy – and oxygen – to keep our bodies cool.
“This can exacerbate symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath,” says Dr Richard Russell, a respiratory consultant from Spire Thames Valley Hospital.
Slash your risk : “Keep your lounge and bedroom at similar temperatures so you don’t get a sudden change when you go to bed. Be alert to weather warnings, wrap up warm in winter and drink plenty of fluids in summer,” he adds.
“Whatever the weather, keep active – it reduces risk of chest infections, which can be life-threatening for people with lung disease.”
It’s still possible to catch colds, flu and even pneumonia in summer.
Besides the annual flu jab, people with lung disease can get a free pneumococcal vaccine – a one-off injection that protects you against pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia.
Most of us look forward to summer but if you have eczema, there’s a downside.
“As temperatures rise, itching caused by this dry, flaky skin condition can get worse.
“Also, the skin is an important part of our temperature-control mechanism but this function doesn’t work as well if you have eczema, so you tend to get hot more quickly,” says Margaret Cox, of the National Eczema Society (eczema.org).
“Cold and wind aren’t good news either as they dry the skin more, making symptoms worse. Frequent temperature changes caused by going outside from centrally heated environments can cause itching too.”
Slash your risk: Keep your temperature as stable as possible. “Make sure your house is well ventilated, don’t overdo the heating or air-conditioning, choose cotton sheets and cotton clothes,” says Margaret.
It’s also important to use medical moisturisers – emollients – at least twice a day. Research by the National Eczema Society found only one in 10 people with eczema do this. The society backs Lloyds Pharmacy’s free skin service, which can help control symptoms. Visit: lloydspharmacy.com.
In a poll of 1,000 people with joint problems, seven in 10 said cold or damp weather gives them aches and pains.
One theory is that lower pressure allows an inflamed joint to swell more, stimulating nerve fibers.
However Prof Alan Silman, medical director of Arthritis Research UK-
(www.arthritisresearchuk.org) says this is unproven. “People may get increased pain in bad weather as they tend to be less active, which can cause joints to stiffen.
“During winter, when the weather is cold and damp, studies show a lot of the population is low on vitamin D, which can also cause achy joints.”
Slash your risk: Be active every day. “Regular moderate exercise stimulates muscles, bones and the cartilage around the joints, keeping them mobile and healthy. Ask your doctor’s advice on type and amount,” says Prof Silman.
He also recommends making sure you get enough vitamin D. We make most of it from sunlight on our skin between May and October.
However, this should only be for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time a few times a week, with care taken never to burn. Otherwise, take a daily supplement of 10mcg.
Courtesy By: By Madeleine Bailey. Mirror Co UK 16 May 2013