Weather Report: Cold, Then Hot, With Chance of a Runny Nose

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Feb. 24, 2023 – Recent extreme swings in temperature and weather across the U.S. can trigger health issues for many people, such as allergies, infections, or worsened heart conditions.

That’s because dramatic weather changes disrupt the life cycles of plants, animals, ecosystems, and even our bodies, The Washington Post reported. Our bodies are always working to maintain balance and, particularly, a certain body temperature. Human bodies prefer to acclimate to environmental changes over a period of days or a couple weeks, experts told The Post.

“That jolt to your system can bring out all sorts of problems,” Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH, interim director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told The Post. “Going from 40 degrees to 80 degrees might not be a big deal for relatively healthy people, but could be for certain people, such as outdoor workers and people with chronic medical problems and other risks.”

Weather-related health risks include:

  • Sinusitis, which has symptoms like runny nose, sinus pressure, and post-nasal drip;
  • Allergies, which have symptoms like itching in the nose and eyes, and a stuffy or runny nose;
  • Heart problems, because heat and extreme cold are linked to elevated death rates from cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke.

The nose will particularly be a bellwether during rapid climate fluctuations.

“The nose is comprised of mostly blood vessels, which constrict when it is cold, and dilate with higher temperatures and more humidity,” Lily Pien, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, told The Post. “When the weather goes back and forth in a 24-hour period, you can go from a runny nose to dry nose rather quickly.”

Extreme weather also threatens access to health care, such as when a recent cold snap in Boston closed four emergency rooms around Boston due to issues such as frozen pipes, Becker’s Healthcare and The Boston Globe reported.