Body Vs. Weather

Weather plays an important role in our lives.  It affects our daily activities, what we wear, the crops we can grow and eat, and our travel plans.  Weather also affects our bodies.  Some obvious examples would be heatstroke and frostbite as a result of extreme temperatures.  Interestingly, there are a variety of other effects that our body experiences due to subtle changes in season, atmospheric pressure, temperature, and relative humidity.  Scientists have found weather effects on headaches, moods, strokes, trauma, kidney stones, and arthritis.  These effects represent just a few of many, as investigating weather effects on the human body is an ongoing research subject.

Weather can affect the human body / Photo available via CC0.

Headaches

While flying, most people experience the changes in pressure in their ears and a quick yawn will reset their pressure.  One case study detailed an eye injury due to air travel leading to a change in coloration of the eye in addition to damage to the optic nerve [1].  However, some people experience sharp headaches during air travel, leading to recognition by the International Classification of Headache Disorders 3 beta (ICHD-3beta) [2]

People affected by migraines may be sensitive to changes in general atmospheric pressure too.  Recent studies have shown both that atmospheric pressure does not trigger migraines [3] and that atmospheric pressure does trigger migraines [4] [5].  While studies continue researching a connection between atmospheric pressure and headaches, many migraine sufferers anecdotally cite low atmospheric pressure as a trigger.  

Chinook winds, unseasonably warm winds causing severe rise in temperature over short amounts of time, may play a role in migraines.  A 1997 study in Calgary analyzed diaries of migraine patients in comparison to Chinook weather conditions.  On days with Chinook weather, the probability of a migraine was greater than on an average weather day.  Interestingly, for patients over the age of 50, the probability of a migraine on Chinook weather days was much greater than any other day [6].  

Headaches can be triggered by weather / Photo by Bodymybody.com

Moods

Weather can also play a part in changing your mood.  A recognized seasonal mood disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka SAD, is a depression that sets in and lifts annually around the same time.  SAD was initially proposed in 1984 in the United States and has since gained widespread acceptance, with diagnosis criteria described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  Although the specific cause of SAD is unknown, one factor may be the decreased level of sunlight.  Sunshine plays an important part in the manufacture of Vitamin D, which in turn leads to increased levels of serotonin, a feel good hormone.  For this reason, people affected by SAD are generally recommended light therapy, using a sunshine simulator light (affiliate) as prescribed to help increase serotonin levels [7].  

A June 2014 study by the Department of Justice looked at seasonal patterns of various crimes, suggesting an increase in aggression associated with an increase in temperature.  The study showed statistically significant variations during the seasons, with higher rates of specific crimes (household larceny, burglary victimization, motor vehicle theft, aggravated assault, rape and sexual assault, and intimate partner violence) occurring during the summer (as opposed to the winter) [8].  

Bureau of Justice Statistics. Seasonal Patterns in Criminal Victimization Trends. NCJ 245959 June 2014 / Image available in public domain

Strokes

Strokes can often occur without warning and can have devastating, potentially fatal consequences.  Interestingly, stroke likelihood is affected by the weather.  A study in Japan found that dry and cold weather increases the likelihood of incidents coded as a stroke in emergency transport services [9].  A study on a population in northern Portugal found a similar effect, with a cooler temperature the day before increasing the likelihood of stroke by as much as 11.8% [10].  Conversely, a study in Scotland also showed a temperature effect, opposite to the findings in Japan and Portugal.  The study in Scotland found an increase in likelihood of stroke correlated to an increased average temperature the day preceding the stroke.  The Scotland study also showed a fall in atmospheric pressure over the preceding 48 hours was associated with an increased rate of haemorrhagic stroke. [11] More research is need to confirm temperature and atmospheric pressure effects on stroke occurrence.  

Trauma

One of the strangest correlations I found while researching was weather and trauma.  Various studies document that emergency room admissions increase as the weather gets warmer [12] [13] [14].  Full moon is associated with a slightly lower trauma incidence [14].  

Moon / Image by NASA and available in the public domain

Barotrauma

External pressures on the human body can do a variety of weird things.  Scuba divers are cautioned about surfacing too fast lest they get decompression sickness, also known as “the bends.”  Decompression sickness can also affect people in an unpressurized aircraft and astronauts.  Other barotrauma injuries involve sinuses.  Barosinusitis may result if the sinus openings are obstructed, which can result in sinus and facial pain, and nosebleeds.  

Scuba divers and air crews may also encounter “dental barotrauma” and “barodontalgia” which means “dental pain associated with barometric pressure.”  Sometimes, these people experiencing rapid changes in pressure may fracture a tooth, or break their previous dental restorations [15].

Scubadivers, and sometimes snorkelers, are susceptible to barotrauma / Photo by Bodymybody.com

Other Correlations

Interestingly, it seems that temperature is related to the formation of kidney stones.  In a recent study in New York City, temperature was found to be strongly correlated with kidney stone presentation with the highest rate of renal colic visits to the studied hospital occurring in August [16].  

Patients with knee osteoarthritis demonstrated decreased postural stability when the atmospheric pressure decreased both in the morning and over the course of the day [17].  Another recent article was a meta review of recent publications concerning pain from osteoarthritis.  Atmospheric pressure was the most frequent variable with some influence on osteoarthritis pain and it seems as though there is a recent trend to confirm influence of weather in osteoarthritis pain intensity [18].  

But How?

Cells in your skin detect temperature and moisture.  However,  scientists aren’t quite sure how small day to day variances in the atmospheric pressure are sensed by the human body.  A recent study proposes that the epidermal keratinocytes, skin cells found in the base layer of your skin, demonstrate a response to subtle changes in atmospheric pressure.  These keratinocytes communicate with your peripheral nervous system and generate and release hormones that influence your nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine and immune systems [19].  Basically, it seems that your skin cells sense changes in atmospheric pressure and then pass the word along to the rest of your body.  

Conclusions

Keeping track of the weather will help you decide what to wear for the day and what effects it could have on your body.  Understanding a correlation may help better predict what manage pain within your body.

Weather affects your body. / Image available via CC0


References

[1] Powell, M. R., L. D. Hurley, and T. C. Richardson. “An Unusual Complication of Barotrauma at Altitude.” Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance 86.11 (2015): 994-98. PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2015. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

[2] Mainardi, F., F. Maggioni, and G. Zanchin. “The Case of the Woman Who Did Never Dare to Fly: Headache Attributed to Imbalance Between Intrasinusal and External Air Pressure.”Headache 56.2 (2016): 389-91. PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

[3] Bolay, Hayrunnisa, MD, PhD, and Alan Rapoport, MD. “Does Low Atmospheric Pressure Independently Trigger Migraine?” Headache 51.9 (2011): 1426-430. Wiley Online Library. John Wiley & Sons, Oct. 2011. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

[4] Kimoto, Kazuhito, Saiko Alba, Ryotaro Takashima, Keisuke Suzuki, Hidehiro Takekawa, Yuka Watanabe, Muneto Tatsumoto, and Koichi Hirata. “Influence of Barometric Pressure in Patients with Migraine Headache.” Internal Medicine 50.18 (2011): 1923-928. J-Stage. The Japanese Society of Internal Medicine. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.

[5] Okuma, Hirohisa, Yumiko Okuma, and Yasuhisa Kitagawa. “Examination of Fluctuations in Atmospheric Pressure Related to Migraine.” Okuma 4 (2015). SpringerPlus. BioMed Central Ltd, 18 Dec. 2015. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.

[6] Priorecky, J.., W. J. Becker, MD, and M. S. Rose, PhD. “Effect of Chinook Winds on the Probability of Migraine Headache Occurrence.” Headache 37.3 (1997): 153-58. Wiley Online Library. John Wiley & Sons. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

[7] Mayo Clinic Staff. “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 Sept. 2014. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

[8] Lauritsen, Janet L., PhD, and Nicole White, PhD. “Seasonal Patterns in Criminal Victimization Trends.” Cyber Crime and the Victimization of Women NCJ 245959 (2014): 12-39.Bureau of Justice Statistics. U.S. Department of Justice, June 2014. Web. 04 Feb. 2017. <https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/spcvt.pdf>.

[9] Ohshige, Kenji, Yuta Hori, Osamu Tochikubo, and Mitsugi Sugiyama. “Influence of Weather on Emergency Transport Events Coded as Stroke: Population-based Study in Japan.”International Journal of Biometeorology 50.305 (2006). SpringerLink. Springer International Publishing, May 2006. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.

[10] Magalhaes, R., M. C. Silva, M. Correia, and T. Bailey. “Are Stroke Occurrence and Outcome Related to Weather Parameters? Results from a Population-Based Study in Northern Portugal.” Cerebrovascular Diseases 32.6 (2011): 542-51. Karger. S. Karger AG, Basel, 18 Nov. 2011. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

[11] Dawson, J., C. Weir, F. Wright, C. Bryden, S. Aslanyan, K. Lees, W. Bird, and M. Walters. “Associations between Meteorological Variables and Acute Stroke Hospital Admissions in the West of Scotland.” Acta Neurologica Scandanavica 117.2 (2008): 85-89. PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

[12] McCarthy, Melissa L., MS, ScD, Scott L. Zeger, PhD, Ru Ding, MS, Dominik Aronsky, MD PhD, Nathan R. Hoot, MS, and Gabor D. Kelen, MD. “The Challenge of Predicting Demand for Emergency Department Services.” Academic Emergency Medicne 15.4 (2008): 337-46. Wiley Online Library. John Wiley & Sons, Apr. 2008. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

[13] Orenstein, David. “As Days Warm, Emergency Visits, Deaths Rise.” Brown University. Brown University, 13 Aug. 2015. Web. 03 Feb. 2017.

[14] Stomp, W., V. Fidler, H. J. Ten Duis, and M. W. Nijsten. “Relation of the Weather and the Lunar Cycle with the Incidence of Trauma in the Groningen Region over a 36-year Period.” The Journal of Trauma 68.4 (2010): 998. PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 05 Feb. 2017.

[15] Nakdimon, I., E. Zehavi, L. Chapnik, and Y. Zadik. “[The Influence of Barometric Pressure Changes in the Oral Cavity: Dental Barotrauma and Barodontalgia].” Refu’at Ha-peh Veha-shinayim 31.3 (2014): 19-25. PubMed. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

[16] Sirohi, Mohit, Benjamin F. Katz, Daniel M. Moreira, and Caner Dinlenc. “Monthly Variations in Urolithiasis Presentations and Their Association with Meteorologic Factors in New York City.” Journal of Endourology 28.5 (2014): 599-604. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Publishers. Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Publishers, 29 Jan. 2014. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

[17] Peultier, L., A. Lion, and I. Chary-Valckenaere. “Influence of Meteorological Elements on Balance Control and Pain in Patients with Symptomatic Knee Osteoarthritis.” International Journal of Biometeorology (2016): 1-8. SpringerLink. Springer International Publishing AG, 10 Nov. 2016. Web. 04 Feb. 2017.

[18] Queiroga De Figueiredo, Evania Claudino, Giovannini Cesar Figueiredo, and Renilson Targino Dantas. “Influence of Meteorological Elements on Osteoarthritis Pain: A Review of the Literature.” Revista Brasileira De Reumatologia 51.6 (2011). Scielo. Universidade Federal De Campina Grande. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

[19] Denda, Mitsuhiro. “Keratinocytes at the Uppermost Layer of Epidermis Might Act as Sensors of Atmospheric Pressure Change.” Extreme Physiology & Medicine 5.11 (2016). BioMed Central. BioMed Central Ltd, 6 Oct. 2016. Web. 06 Feb. 2017.

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