Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Allergies Health Center

Font Size

The Weather: Wreaking Havoc on Health

The weather forecast may be a strong predictor of how you're going to feel.

Migraine Headaches and Weather Changes

Falling barometric pressure, a sharp increase in humidity, a sudden drop in temperature -- these weather changes may trigger migraines in people already susceptible to them.

And it appears that stable weather may help reduce the incidence of migraines. "I had a patient here in New York who moved to Arizona and experienced an astounding improvement in her migraines," says Richard Lipton, MD, director of the Montefiore Headache Center. While New Yorkers endure sudden and frequent changes in humidity levels and temperature, Arizona residents enjoy fairly uniform conditions marked by dry, warm air.

Research supports the theory that changing weather triggers migraines. In one survey that asked migraine sufferers to list triggers, 53% responded "weather."

Not everyone can move to a different climate so they can feel better. But migraine sufferers can take some action against weather-induced headaches. First, Lipton urges his patients to keep a diary of their migraines to make cause-and-effect connections. Then, if weather changes seem to play a role in migraines, the next step may be to discuss pretreatment with a doctor to avoid the onset of pain.

Chilly, Damp Weather Stiffens Joints

While it's unusual for migraine sufferers to move for improved health, it's not uncommon for people with joint pain to do so -- particularly the elderly. "A lot of our patients migrate to warmer weather because they cannot tolerate the pain," says Javad Parvizi, MD, PhD, a joint specialist at the Rothman Institute at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. In studying the relationship of weather to arthritic pain in weight-bearing joints, Parvizi says that his preliminary data show a significant correlation between joint pain and changes in weather.

"Baseline pain appears to be strongly affected by a drop in temperature and a change in humidity. Almost 80% to 90% of patients feel a difference in their pain's intensity and sensitivity," Parvizi tells WebMD.

Instead of simply reacting to weather-associated increases in joint pain with measures like placing heating pads over painful joints and doubling up on analgesics, Parvizi recommends that people use proactive measures to improve joint function, such as engaging in nonweight-bearing exercises. Other than that, he admits, "There's not a lot that can be done."

Extreme Temperatures Increase Heart Risk

When asked about the greatest exertion-related risk to patients with heart disease, cardiologist Steve Pollock, MD, director of St. Joseph's Heart Institute in Towson, Md., doesn't make a single mention of extreme activities like bungee jumping or deep-sea diving. "The only restriction I place on patients with heart disease is this: no shoveling snow," he tells WebMD.

Already, people who suffer from heart disease can have narrowed coronary arteries. Add to these factors the additional exertion required for shoveling snow, and the scenario can quickly turn into a dangerous, even deadly, heart attack.

Today on WebMD

man blowing nose
Make these tweaks to your diet, home, and lifestyle.
Allergy capsule
Breathe easier with these products.
 
cat on couch
Live in harmony with your cat or dog.
Woman sneezing with tissue in meadow
Which ones affect you?
 

woman sneezing
Slideshow
Bottle of allergy capsules and daisies
Article
 
Urban blossoms
Slideshow
Woman blowing nose
Slideshow
 

Woman with itchy watery eyes
Slideshow
Allergy prick test
VIDEO
 
Man sneezing into tissue
Tools
woman with duster crinkling nose
Quiz