The weather in Germany has never been as destructive and volatile as it was this summer. The change in weather not only led to problems caused by high water , strong winds and heavy storms, but also aggravated existing diseases such as migraine, rheumatism and asthma. It is not a myth: intense weather change and especially low air pressure has a noticeable effect on our body. With weather sensitivity, symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbances and joint or muscle pain are often observed. Find out how else the body reacts to weather changes below.
Table of Contents
- Weather sensitivity: What does the weather do to us?
- Weather sensitivity manifests itself through:
- Interesting fact: Low atmospheric pressure can trigger spontaneous childbirth
Weather sensitivity: What does the weather do to us?
Do you feel a storm coming on? Have you been told you are a human barometer that can sense changes in barometric pressure? You are not crazy and you are not alone. It is possible to feel the oncoming storm “in your bones” – or in your head.
Barometric pressure is atmospheric pressure, the weight of the atmosphere. Changes in atmospheric pressure affect our bodies in different ways. Some people are more sensitive to weather changes than others, such as people with migraines or arthritis . When air pressure drops, it means a storm or other type of weather change is coming.
However, it’s difficult to say that barometric pressure alone is responsible for the extra discomfort. Weather changes and storms are accompanied by other changes, such as temperature changes, rain or snow, and changes in wind. Here are the most common effects that weather sensitivity has on our bodies.
Weather sensitivity manifests itself through:
It’s not just an old wives’ tale: bad weather can cause headaches. In fact, in 2015, Japanese researchers found that headache medication sales directly correlate with a drop in barometric pressure, which is what happens before really bad weather hits. In an article for The Conversation, Durham University neuroscience professor Dr. Amanda Ellison explains how this works.
“There are two mechanisms of action here,” she writes. “One is related to the sinuses – the four small air-filled cavities in the bones of the face. Just as the ears “pop” when the air pressure changes, changes in atmospheric air pressure can cause an imbalance of pressure in the sinuses, leading to inflammation and pain. Depending on which sinus is most affected, the pain will feel different: They range from pain in the forehead to pain between and behind the eyes to pain in the face or diffuse headaches in the front or back of the head. Which one is more prone to depends on the individual structure of the head.
“The other mechanism of action for why weather sensitivity manifests as a headache is related to the way air pressure changes alter blood flow in the cerebrovascular system, which controls how blood circulates in the head,” Ellison writes. “Blood is highly toxic to neurons, so it’s very important to keep blood separate from the brain. The blood vessels of the cerebrovascular system have receptors that are activated when the blood vessels dilate too much, serving as an early warning system that something is wrong. We perceive this activation as pain.” As blood flow to the brain changes, weather sensitivity can also affect your ability to concentrate.
Ellison suggests chewing gum as a home remedy. “It can help equalize pressure in the sinuses through the mouth, nose and Eustachian tube (which runs from the middle ear to the throat and is very important for equalizing pressure) – and can prevent tension headaches.
Air pressure fluctuations are one of the most commonly cited weather-related migraine triggers. Another migraine trigger is temperature fluctuations, which are usually accompanied by changing air pressure. “Any change in temperature, from warm to cold or cold to warm, can trigger a migraine attack,” says headache specialist Dr. Cynthia Armand.
“When the changing air pressure is accompanied by a thunderstorm, it’s even more likely to trigger a migraine attack,” said Vince Martin, M.D., director of the Headache and Facial Pain Center at the University of Cincinnati’s Gardner Neuroscience Institute. He explained his fascinating research findings on the link between migraines and lightning:
“We published a study in 2013 in the journal Cephalalgia in which we found that if there was a thunderstorm within 25 miles (about 40 km) of the person’s residence, there was a 25% to 30% increased risk of new-onset headache, meaning the headache started that day, or new-onset migraine,” he said.
“Then we developed models to determine whether it was the lightning or the other meteorological factors associated with a thunderstorm, such as precipitation or barometric pressure,” he says. “Even after we took those factors into account, lightning was still a unique trigger for migraines.”
The low air pressure associated with bad weather is not the only thing that can affect us. Rising humidity can also cause feelings of pressure and pain in the face. This is because high humidity increases mucus production in the sinuses to trap allergens, dust and dirt particles that are abundant in the dense, humid air. This can lead to sinus congestion, inflammation and discomfort – often resulting in sinusitis headaches.
Hot, humid weather can make breathing difficult, especially for people with pre-existing lung conditions. Air pollution, which is worse in hot weather, also plays a role.
Weather sensitivity and circulation
How can today’s air pressure affect your blood pressure? Your circulatory system consists of your heart, which acts as a pump, and your arteries and veins, which move blood to and from your heart and tissues. Blood pressure is determined by the speed and force of your heart and the resistance of your blood vessels. The change in blood pressure is another important effect of air pressure on health.
“Blood pressure is generally higher in winter and lower in summer. This is because blood vessels constrict when temperatures are low. This causes blood pressure to rise because more pressure is needed to pump blood through the narrowed veins and arteries,” explains Dr. Sheldon Sheps on MayoClinic.org .
When it’s hot in the summer, our blood vessels dilate to release body heat, resulting in low blood pressure. As a result, the circulatory system becomes weaker and blood circulates more poorly. The typical symptoms of low blood pressure are dizziness, nausea, headaches and fatigue.
“Blood pressure can also be affected by a sudden change in the weather, such as a weather front or storm,” Dr. Sheps says. “Your body – and your blood vessels – can respond to sudden changes in humidity, barometric pressure, cloud cover or wind just as they can to cold.”
“These weather-related blood pressure fluctuations are more common in people 65 and older,” he wrote.
Weather sensitivity and blood sugar
When air pressure drops during a cold front, blood viscosity, or thickness, increases, said Jennifer Vanos, assistant professor of earth sciences at Texas Tech, in an interview with Weather.com. “Diabetics have more trouble controlling their blood sugar during cold fronts,” she said.
A rapid drop in blood sugar levels could also trigger a migraine attack . Reactive hypoglycemia is a condition in which blood sugar drops rapidly, usually when the sugar rush from carbohydrate- or glucose-rich foods wears off. This is one of the least understood but very real migraine triggers.
When blood sugar levels drop due to environmental changes, it can lead to something called low barometric pressure fatigue. So a change in weather actually makes you tired. The lack of glucose in the brain still causes symptoms such as concentration problems or dizziness.
Joint pain, knee arthrosis and Co.
As Dr. Jaspal Singh of the Weill Cornell Medicine Center for Comprehensive Spine Care in New York told The New York Times, our joints actually respond to changes in air pressure.
“At normal or higher air pressure, when the atmosphere is heavier, it pushes against us from the outside and keeps our body tissues from expanding,” the NY Times explains. “But when the air pressure drops – as it does before humid, rainy or snowy weather – the body tissues have more room to expand. When this is the case, it can push against our joints, causing pain in some people, especially those with injuries or arthritis.”
Interesting fact: Low air pressure can trigger spontaneous birth
According to a seven-year study by Japanese doctors , published in the journalArchives of Gynecology and Obstetrics,there is a link between a sudden drop in atmospheric air pressure and water breaking during a normal birth, also called a “spontaneous birth.” The results suggest that low atmospheric pressure triggers rupture of the membranes and birth.